South Georgia woman watches as her home heads for water - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

South Georgia woman watches as her home heads for water

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August 8, 2003

Baconton- Karen Olmstead's property was recently reassessed by Mitchell County.

"Telling me the value of my house has gone up $7,000," said Olmstead.

But to Karen, the view from her backyard shows the value is plunging, literally. Her riverside property is crumbling beneath her feet.

"The way I look at it, my house has gone from being a $60,000 plus asset to being a negative $60,000 for me because it's not sellable," she said.

Michael McNeil is a geotechnical engineer out of Albany. He would not let us interview him when he looked at the damage, but apparently, he did not have a lot of good news.

Other engineers have looked at her sinking yard and agree that it's a slope stability problem. The river has saturated the wall of the bank.

"Clay always comes off in chunks," said Ronny Milton, a local engineer. "It may be one foot thick, two feet thick or in this case 15 feet thick."

To secure the home would be more than Karen, or pretty much anybody else, could afford. There would have to be studies of the land and the labor and work would be extensive.

"It would cost more to fix or secure my property than what my property is worth," Olmstead.

Pieces of Karen's property are still crumbling away. She knows she'll loose more land because she can already feel where the ground is starting to drop.

For the most part, the engineers believe the ground has stabilized. And without a major flood, Karen is probably safe.

"My gut instinct is that it will be several years before it moves any more," Milton said.

Karen's instinct is saying something different. She does not feel safe. The home where she'd hoped to retire with little financial strain is turning into a huge money pit. This would be difficult for any family, but especially for single-parents with one income.

"It's hard enough to live that way without having more income," Olmstead said.

And without having anywhere else to turn for help.

posted at 10:09 p.m. by brannon.stewart@walb.com

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