Elderly couple faces stiff fines if sinkhole isn't fixed

Home uninhabitable following 2011 collapse
Posted at 8:13 PM, May 01, 2017

A Florida husband and wife will celebrate their 70th anniversary in September. But, it is the 6-year anniversary of a sinkhole in June that’s casting a dark shadow on their future.

It was June 2011, when Virginia, 88, and Nathaniel, 96, Crawford were forced to evacuate from their home in Tarpon Springs, Florida that they lived in for more than 50 years.

“They lost their whole home and everything in the home,” Kenisha Merricks said. Merricks said the family has been trying to figure out a way to help pay for the home to be demolished and the sinkhole filled in. She wants her grandparents to be able to keep the land and give it to the family when their financial situation is better. In February she says Tarpon Springs Code Enforcement sent letters to the family for violations.

“They are quick to send notices,” Merricks said. “If we don't respond, if we don't do anything would you take our grandparents home? Would you take our grandparents home that they worked all their lives to provide would you take that from them?

Tarpon Springs told Tampa-based WFTS reporter Michael Paluska that an enforcement official was doing a report on another property and noticed the Crawford’s home in disrepair. 

“We'll work with the city, if the city will work with us, but that's not happening,” Earnest Crawford Sr. said. “Just doing repairs on the property itself was over $65,000 and $45,000 to repair the home.”

Crawford said he’s tried to get estimates to repair the home but no one will even take the job because contractors are worried about another collapse.

“It's not a sinkhole. It's classified as a catastrophic collapse. And, they tell me if they bring their equipment in there they will lose it,” Crawford said.

WFTS covered the sinkhole back in June of 2011. During that time multiple sinkholes opened up in the area. At the time the sinkhole opened in the Crawford’s backyard, the street in front of their home caved in.

“We feel that is something they caused,” Merricks said. “The pipe is something they caused. Therefore, instead of sending us citations and putting notices like this on the door they should try to reach out to us and offer us some kind of help. My grandmother is elderly my grandfather is elderly.”

The family said the city told them since their sinkhole was on private property they were not responsible for it.

According to the City of Tarpon Springs Ordinance the family is a nuisance and violates city ordinances.

There is a final hearing set for May 11.