The sinkholes caused by collapsed drainage pipes at Cortez Plaza, in the 600 block of Cortez Road, have been repaired and the drainage that flows into Ware’s Creek is moving once again.
The county’s contractor, Woodruff and Sons, completed work earlier this week and while areas of the parking lot remained fenced off, the danger of the sinkholes expanding has passed.
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In a letter to county commissioners, Chad Butzow, interim public works director, wrote, “Work actually went a little better than expected when dealing with the close proximity to the buildings at one of the repair locations.”
Butzow said public works will transmit the estimated $250,000 project cost to code enforcement for the process of filing a lien against the property owner, Bradenton Associates LLC.
Sinkholes on the property were somewhat commonplace and the owners were repairing them as they happened, but they stopped trying a couple of years ago. The resulting inaction led to the growth of the sinkholes to the point where they were threatening nearby businesses.
Code enforcement initiated action against the owner to no avail so in May the county commission voted to spend the funds for the sake of public safety. The drainage problems also were threatening nearby residents who were experiencing more flooding than usual because the water wasn’t flowing.
Just prior to extensive news coverage of the situation, Bradenton Associates LLC listed the plaza for sale for $17 million. The owner has code enforcement fines pending and now the cost of construction. Whether taxpayers get their money back is iffy at best, according to county attorney Mitchell Palmer.
In May, Palmer noted that the owner was found to be in serious financial trouble and should his office file a lien, there were others ahead of the county.
“My office will aggressively pursue any monies owed to this government,” Palmer said in May. “But on the same token, my office does not act foolishly and understands that blood cannot be obtained from a turnip. So it may reach a point where we cannot practically pursue payment but we are nowhere near that point.”
For shoppers, it’s just a relief that the problem has been fixed. Bob Riegel said the county did the right thing.
“It’s been like that for a couple of years and it was getting worse so the county had to step in,” Riegel said.
When asked if he would feel the same way should the taxpayers never be reimbursed, Riegel said, “That’s hard to say, but yeah, I think so. It’s been a little bit concerning, but the thing is, if the county didn’t make the repairs, this plaza would start losing businesses and the county would then lose tax dollars so hopefully it kind of evens out.”