Hurricane Michael brought more to the Panhandle than just destruction. The storm brought aid from all over the Panhandle. Churches, outreach groups, linemen and contractors from all over the United States flooded into the Florida Panhandle in the days following the massive category 4 storm.
Those out of towners needed a place to stay, many staying as far as Okaloosa County or Escambia County and making the everyday commute into Bay County to assist in any way they could.
However, some residents may feel as if they’ve overstayed their welcome. Peggy Spiers works for Kershaw manufacturing. She oversees numerous rental homes and properties across the Panhandle and in parts of Alabama for her employer.
Following Hurricane Michael, her employer wanted to help in any way he could. The easiest way to assist was to offer their rental property to a group of communications linemen.
Spiers and her employer offered their property located off Holiday Isle in Destin for a discounted price.
“We made an exception in this case and drastically reduced by $600 per month our regular snowbird rate as my employer’s way of giving back and contributing in any way that he could towards the disaster relief,” said Kershaw Manufacturing Property Manager, Peggy Spiers.
However, Spiers didn’t know the trouble the group would cause. Spiers said there were 8 communications linemen staying in the 3 bedrooms, 2 bath home. She would conduct weekly drive-bys as a way of checking on the property but never entered the home.
While she was driving by, she noticed the men doing automobile work in the driveway. Spiers said there were engines, tools, and oil scattered everywhere. Seeing the damage they had done, she informed the primary contact of the group that everything needed to be cleaned up.
The group listened and cleaned things up but left behind their engines asking for a time extension to pick them up. Spiers gave them until the following day to retrieve them and received a suspicious phone call from the primary contact the next morning.
“He goes, did you come to get my engines? My engines are gone. I was like no. We had nobody go out there and take anything. You said to give you until the following day to collect the rest of the items that were there and that’s what we did,” said Spiers.
Spiers had an employee go by the home after the group left and take photos of the property. She got off the phone with the primary contact and immediately referenced the photos.
“Soon as I got off the phone with him, I looked at the pictures that our employee had taken the night before and all that stuff he said that was stolen the night before was already gone,” she said.
Spiers went onto say that something didn’t feel right about the entire exchange regarding the location of the engines. “We feel like he tried to set us up to try and file a claim with our homeowner’s insurance to cover two ten thousand dollar engines that were already gone the night before.”
Regardless of her worries, the men were finally off the property. They had stayed in the home from October 12th to January 27th. During that span, Spiers nor any other employee had seen the inside of the home.
Having seen the condition the mechanic work left in the driveway, Spiers had no idea what to expect inside the home.
“Honestly, I was just sick, I was overwhelmed. It took us weeks and weeks and weeks to clean it up and we didn’t even have a sufficient amount of time to clean it up because we had a snowbird that was coming in,” she said.
Spiers said seeing the inside was a shock and the worst condition she’s ever seen one of their properties left in,
“Initially, we didn’t really see anything that was concerning because there was always so many vehicles in the driveway that we really couldn’t see what was going on without pulling up into the driveway… and we felt like that was a little too intrusive,” said Spiers.
Spiers said she believes the property was used purely as a garage and a place to sleep. The damage inside included missing houseware items, stained bedding and furniture, nicotine and dirt stained walls and other issues impacting the vanity of the interior of the home.
“The walls were covered in hand and footprints where it looked like they sat on the side of the bed or on a piece of furniture and propped their feet up to tie their shoes or un-tie their shoes in the evening,” she said.
However it wasn’t just damaging to the home, the group also ran up quite a power and water bill. Spiers says in the busiest of months, a typical water bill is about $125 but their bill in one month was 4 times that.
“The month they checked out, we had over a $500 water bill,” she said.
Spiers took photos and compiled a list of all the damage and reached out to the primary guest regarding reimbursement and compensation for the damage. She said she’s been reaching out to them week after week but can’t get a response.
News 13 reached out to the company and they have yet to return comment on the matter.
Spiers is awaiting payment from the company who destroyed their home and wants to warn other renters that this could happen to them. She said this was a lesson learned, and it will never happen again.
“If there’s another natural disaster, god forbid we have another natural disaster… FEMA is not going to be able to get anyone down here to work because there won’t be anywhere for them to stay,” said Spiers.