Garry Miller received an estimate from his insurance company to rebuild his Apopka home, but waits for government assistance to fill the gaping hole that ate his kitchen, dining room and bathroom.
And the hole continues to grow, which means adjusters can’t give an estimate on the price to fill the sinkhole until it stabilizes.
Mark Israel, president of Universal Engineering Sciences of Orlando, said it could cost anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000 to fill the hole, depending on its size. Engineers fill the sinkhole with dirt, then pipes are drilled into the ground to pump in grout, which is a mixture of sand, cement and water.
The Millers have homeowners’ insurance but did not purchase sinkhole coverage, which was mandatory for Florida residents until legislators added opt-out clauses in 2011. The Millers decided not to add on the additional $2,000 a year of coverage, which would have paid for improvements to their property but would not have paid to fill the sinkhole.
Miller said he will have to dip into his savings to pay whatever it costs to fill the sinkhole to shore up the home he and his wife, Ellen, have lived in for 49 years. Their two daughters were raised in the house and one lives next door.
Last Friday, Miller complained about government bureaucracy and that legislators like U.S. Rep. Val Demings had not returned his call for help.
Wendy Anderson, chief of staff for Demings, said they put the Millers in contact with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help the retired couple rebuild their home.
“We’re working diligently with everyone that has reached out to our office,” Anderson said. “We’re fighting to ensure each individual gets the assistance they need.”
But Miller said that wasn’t much help.
“They (Demings’ office) sent two women out here and they wanted to know how much my insurance is paying, what’s the deductible and asked about our immediate needs,” said Miller, who told them his wife needed diabetic testing supplies but they haven’t seen that arrive yet.
“They’re just covering their ass is all they’re doing,” Miller said Wednesday.
Orange County building inspectors have condemned the house and turned off power and water. Now Miller said he must pay Duke Energy $480 to install a temporary electric meter so a contractor can work on the demolition. He also was told by the City of Apopka that he must go down to Orange County to get his water turned back on.
“They’re making me jump through hoops to get water and power back for the cleanup,” Miller said.
The Millers noticed a small hole Sept. 18 at their backdoor. The sinkhole has since grown to 35-feet deep and 35-feet wide. Their insurance company is paying for an extended hotel stay until a rental home can be found.
Peter Sessum, spokesperson for FEMA, said disaster benefits are not income-based and they look at each claim on a case-by-case basis. He added the Millers would have to place their insurance claim first and receive a settlement before the government will step in because they are not allowed to duplicate benefits.