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Built on a Bad Foundation

April 21st, 2008 by Mike Vasilinda

Nine families who bought land for their dream homes from the states largest landowner have had their dreams smashed. The homes were built at a time when St. Joe Company did not need a permit to fill a low lying area and as Mike Vasilinda tells us, the fill the company used is creating a nightmare for residents.

In the mid 1980’s St. Joe Paper Company filled this low lying area in Port St. Joe. It used scraps from the companys nearby paper mill. It then sold the lots with the help of Federally insured loans. Today, 9 homes sit on the filled area, but they are sinking. This water meter was once flush with the ground.

Vernell Bailey raised six kids here, but the house is collapsing and condemned.

Like this, the wall was coming away from the corner, Bailey said. All this here.

The once solid wood fill underneath has since rotted, creating a mush under the homes. Driveways are cracked. Windows are falling out. Walls inside and out have split.

Some residents use a rag to keep bugs and snakes out.

Insects are coming in your house, Charlie and Dorothy Ash said. [Grandkids are] afraid. When they go to sleep, they have to leave the lights on.

Federal money guaranteed the loans for the houses, so U.S. taxpayers may be out if the homeowners default. So far the company is giving the lawyer hired by the families a cold shoulder.

Theyre not saying that we didnt sell you bad land, Attorney Ben Crump said. Theyre saying for technical reasons, you cant hold us responsible.

Tougher standards are in place today which would have specified what fill the company could use.

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