ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) — Candis Hoefer insists she was driving cautiously and trying to avoid storm puddles on Aug. 8 when she hit something far worse. Hoefer hit a one-foot deep pothole big enough to blow a tire and wreck her car’s alignment.
“The front end of the car dropped down in that hope and made a noise and I didn’t know if I was going to get out of that hole,” Hoefer said.
Hoefer is one of many motorists who have reported annoying and sometimes car-destroying potholes in the streets and alleys of St. Petersburg. This is all despite the fact that You Paid For It as part of the city’s annual budget. News Channel 8 investigated how much the city is actually paying to fix craters.
This year’s St. Petersburg budget for pavement maintenance was 17 percent lower than last year, and the proposed city budget for fiscal 2017 cuts 28 percent from this year’s level. City spokesman Benjamin Kirby insists those figures listed in budget documents are more of a budgetary illusion than any attempt to cheap out on road repairs at motorists’ expense.
Kirby says city accountants switched expenses around due to a stormwater project performed by the pavement repair crews. He said that makes it appear the budget for potholes is lower, when it fact it is not.
“We’ve added a position,” Kirby said. That makes 34 working in the pavement report department this year.
Whatever’s going on in the city ledgers, for many motorists the results are hard to see on the streets of St. Petersburg.
Last year the city anticipated a typical pavement repair backlog of 40 jobs amounting to a response time of 25 days. Hoefer says the pothole she encountered is part of a minefield of potholes in an area that hasn’t improved for years. The potholes are along the 6200 block of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Street North.
Hoefer’s daughter, Rachel Sabillion, who was with her when the car hit the foot-deep pothole, says the city did get around to fixing it a few days after her mom’s car fell in, but only after she raised a ruckus.
Sabillion insists no one at the city’s risk management department has returned the four calls she’s made asking for compensation to repair her mother’s blown tire and alignment problem. “Never get a call back,” Sabillion tells 8 On Your Side. “All I’m asking the city for is the pay for the new tire and front end alignment.”
Hoefr claims she is hardly in a position to make the repairs herself and has been driving around town on a temporary “donut” tire since last month.
“My husband and I live on Social Security and we don’t have a lot extra to deal with,” she said. “Not in my budget.”
8 On Your Side couldn’t reach the risk management office either, but a call to the mayor’s office yielded a quick response. Within 30 minutes, Hoefer received a call from City Hall telling her how to initiate a claim for her tire and vehicle damage.
Anyone with pothole complaints in St. Petersburg should go online and register a complaint directly in the city’s troubleshooting website. After all, You Paid For It.
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