Manatee County has decided to use taxpayer money to fix sinkholes in a Bradenton shopping plaza.

Officials say the depressions formed after the property owner failed to repair underground pipes.     

Deon Sarlls has owned Plato’s Closet here at Cortez Plaza East for 12 years. Business was good, until two years ago.

“It started in one spot and it slowly migrated to two or three other spots,” Sarlls recalled.

Sinkholes have formed in the parking lot because of broken storm-water pipes.

Manatee County says the pipe system dates to the 1950s. The pipes are corroded from rust and the leaking water caused these holes.

“It’s created a deficit in the bottom of the pipe which has led to erosion which has led to the holes that have opened up in the parking lot,” explained Manatee County Field Maintenance Division Manager Myra Prater.

Officials say the property owner, Bradenton Associates, LLC, is responsible for repairs. But despite daily fines, nothing has been done.

“We have exhausted all the efforts that we could through our code enforcement division and they have stopped voluntarily participating in any type of response,” said Prater.

“People see the fences from the road and they think that we’re closed or we’re no longer in business which is not the case, we are very much up and running,” said Sarlls.

So now, the county is using taxpayer money to fix this mess. For the next month, crews will be doing repairs.

At one of the sinkholes, Prater says they will dig and create a big ditch to make sure storm water can flow.

Crews will dig into the hole in front of Plato’s Closet to see if any pipe repair work can be done. They will then back fill it to eliminate future erosion.

“There’s not much that we can do right now from the aspect that it is private property and we are simply trying to restore flow at the moment,” said Prater.

County officials will not be repaving the parking lot.

“The county can only do so much so I don’t believe they’re going to be doing any pavement or anything like that, which keeps the fences up, keeps the parking spots closed up and keeps the back entrance closed, so it’s still difficult for us,” said Sarlls.

County officials say if Bradenton Associates, LLC does not replace these antiquated pipes, more sinkholes could possibly form in the parking lot.

“There is the potential for future failures down the line and we will look at those in the event that they come up,” said Prater.

Sarlls has had enough.

“We’re actually looking at relocating hopefully by the end of the year,” said Sarlls.

The repairs will cost close to $200,000 in taxpayer money. But the property owner, Bradenton Associates, LLC will have to pay the county back.

The owner has not responded to our requests for comment.