Public Works Director Stephen Furman said no simple or cheap fix exists for the Kleiboers, such as cleaning the ditches or digging a stormwater pond. He pointed out the county already put in "three or four" cross drains to carry water away.
NAVARRE — Phil and Heather Kleiboer keep sand bags, plastic tarps and boards on their front porch and in their garage in case it rains.
A normal rainfall can swamp the dream home the Madison, Wisconsin couple bought for their future retirement in November 2016, using their life savings.
That became the case Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019 when 4.26 inches of rain fell in Navarre, according to the National Weather Service station in Mobile, Alabama.
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"No one got a storm warning on Dec. 22," Phil Kleiboer said. "It wasn’t a 1,000-year rain event."
The couple attended the Santa Rosa County committee meeting Monday to seek a solution to the regular flooding experienced at 2252 Avenida De Sol, just north of U.S. Highway 98 and the Publix grocery store.
They met with Public Works Director Stephen Furman, seeking the county to pay to raise the level of their house by at least 2 feet and create a proper drainage pond in the neighborhood.
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An alternative suggestion is to pursue the county or Federal Emergency Management Agency to buy their house and level it. The Kleiboers said the same thing should be done for their next door neighbors, who go through the same "nightmare" every time it rains at the corner of Avenida De Sol and Mercado Street.
"We do not want to let anybody else live this nightmare," Phil Kleiboer said.
Furman said no simple or cheap fix exists for the Kleiboers, such as cleaning the ditches or digging a stormwater pond. He pointed out the county already put in "three or four" cross drains to carry water away.
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Furman said as the neighborhood grows, flooding will only get worse there since it stands at the lowest point in the subdivision.
"I don’t have a magic bullet on this one," Furman said. "I encouraged them to pursue any paths or remedies for themselves."
That includes pursuing Santa Rosa County commissioners to purchase the property, Furman said.
Ever since the house was built in September 2012, it has posed flooding problems. That’s because it was built at grade, while other houses since then have been built at least 2 feet above grade. Additionally, Williams Creek runs east and west just one lot away from the Kleiboers’ home.
William and Angela Betty, who first bought the house, sold a certificate of title to Wells Fargo Bank in April 2016 to get out from under the financial burden from flooding that occurred five times over the 2013 and 2014 period.
Heather Kleiboer said nothing indicated to them that they would live "at the bottom of the toilet bowl." The flooding was represented to them and their Realtor instead as a one-time, 1,000-year flood, when Navarre received between 18 and 26 inches of rain in 2014.
To improve drainage, the Kleiboers invested in drain tile rock, a sump pump crock in the garage, and drain extensions. The also invested in renovations to the home, such as sit-down showers. They spent more than $30,000 overall.
"We’ve never lived in a house this nice in our lives," Phil Kleiboer said.
The Facebook group Concerned Citizens of Navarre had 355 people add emojis, 268 comments to the message and photos that Heather Kleiboer posted about having water rush there after rainfalls. The post was also shared 46 times. Many of the comments empathized with the burden and stress flooding put on the family.
"I thought, ’Why are we battling this all by ourselves?’" she said. "The county knows this is a problem."
Her husband, Phil, added: "I don’t feel we can beat this anymore."
Phil and Heather, who have two sons, 18-year-old Cole and 15-year-old Cam, promise to keep fighting until they reach a satisfactory outcome. They vow to hire an attorney if they need one. Their retirement is at stake.
"We’re not going away," Heather said. "We want to stay in Navarre. We love the Navarre area."