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Hernando commissioner defends sinkhole statements

Published:   |   Updated: February 11, 2014 at 07:33 PM

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BROOKSVILLE - County Commission Chairman Wayne Dukes said Tuesday he stands by comments he made to News Channel 8 that there is no scientific technology available to definitely show where sinkholes are likely to form underground.

Hernando County cannot stop residential development, Dukes said, just because of the possibility there may be sinkholes on the property.

Dukes made the comments during an investigative piece on News Channel 8 detailing Hernando County's reputation as being part of "Sinkhole Alley."

Dukes said most of his televised statements were not used in their entirety and the final televised report was crafted in a way to show that Hernando County government doesn't care about sinkholes. That is not true, Dukes said Tuesday.

The Hernando County Property Appraiser's Office shows there were 1,313 sinkhole claims were lodged with the county in 2013, down 33 percent from the 1,957 in 2012.

That compares to 1,655 in 2011, 874 in 2010 and 402 in 2009.

Dukes on Tuesday responded to the interview when the board was taking comments from citizens and resident Jimmy Lodato challenged him about his statements and called him a fool.

Lodato said sinkholes are costing taxpayers millions in reduced property values and are creating unsafe conditions for homeowners.

Spring Hill leads the state with an estimated 6,106 properties reporting sinkhole related activity. Many have unflatteringly referred to Spring Hill as the "Sinkhole Capital of Florida."

Dukes said Lodato, who is running against him for county commissioner this year, tried to make him look bad and that is why he brought it up at the meeting.

"This is not the first time he's done it," he said.

Later in the meeting, Commissioner Diane Rowden urged the board to consider exploring an ordinance that would prohibit grout being poured in the ground to stabilize sinkhole properties because it is harmful to the aquifer.

The board did not discuss the matter. Instead, Commissioner Jim Adkins said he plans to meet with state legislators in Tallahassee about Rowden's concerns. Rowden questioned whether Adkins' meetings would have any immediate effect and wanted more concrete action taken Tuesday to protect citizens.

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