‘An American nightmare’
U.S. Sen. George LeMieux (R-Florida) touched the corroded A/C coils, the quarters and the paint cans.
He looked at the bathroom fixtures, studied the legal documents, listened to the families as they told their stories of living — and coping — with defective drywall.
“I needed to see this first hand,” he said.
LeMieux toured the Cape Coral home of Patti and Richard Kampf Thursday, hoping to get close look at the effects of the Chinese drywall has had on the Kampf’s lives.
The Kampfs’ home is one of what’s estimated to be thousands of homes built in Florida with the tainted drywall.
Richard Kampf said he met with the senator in November 2009, and was happy that he kept his promise to visit their home personally.
“I’m optimistic,” Kampf said of LeMieux’s tour of his home. “This gives us another source to pursue … our intention is to hold him to his word.”
The Kampfs, along with George and Brenda Brincku, have led the local push for drywall reform, with the Kampf’s going as far as testifying before Congress.
Together, they held a drywall rally in North Fort Myers recently, that George Brincku said was attended by over 350 people, all coping in some fashion or another with the drywall.
The Brinckus moved out of their Alva home just over a year ago because of the drywall problem. And the Kampfs, though still trying to deal with the problem, could possibly move within the next 30 days.
“This is a step in the right direction, for all of us” George Brincku said of the senator’s visit. “But there needs to be some protection for consumers.”
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Florida) said previously that he blames the Consumer Product Safety Commission for allowing the tainted drywall to enter the country.
While LeMieux wouldn’t go as far as to blame the CPSC, he did say he plans on going back to Washington to ask some “tough” questions of the CPSC and other federal agencies like the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“This is the kind of thing where the federal government needs to help,” LeMieux said.
HUD announced late last year that it would make community development block grant funds available to homeowners suffering through defective drywall.
The problem locally is that 65 percent of the $700,000 Cape Coral receives in CDBG funds is already spoken for, leaving next to nothing to help homeowners rehabilitate their homes.
On the county level, Human Services Department officials said they’re weren’t sure how to distribute the funds, as HUD didn’t provide enough information on how to prioritize the need.
Richard Kampf said it would cost nearly $150,000 to replace all the defective drywall in his home.
He said he’s willing to struggle through the rehab — if he knew help was coming — but so far the lack of a clear plan on behalf of the state, or the federal government, has left him in limbo.
He said the only way to truly deal with the problem is to have the governor declare a state of emergency, opening up the federal funding floodgates through agencies like HUD and FEMA.
LeMieux claimed he was going to do just that while standing in the Kampfs’ driveway, saying he was prepared to “rattle some cages” to find the answers the Kampfs, the Brinckus and thousands of homeowners nationwide are seeking.
“Here, we have people who bought the American dream, and it turned into the American nightmare,” he said.