Oldsmar couples united by common cause

Oldsmar residents - and one city official - came together to help Kaye and Larry Wolfe (r) last Saturday.

A number of Oldsmar residents, including Sheri and Matt Clarke (pink shirts) and City Council member Dan Saracki (back r), came together last Saturday to help Kay and Larry Wolfe (r) shorten a deck at their Gull Aire Village home.

Two weeks ago, Matt and Sheri Clarke spoke at the Oldsmar City Council meeting about the lack of accountability and poor communication skills exhibited by members of the city’s building department.

After outlining the many issues they encountered since applying to build a garage on their Pine Avenue property more than six years ago, the council unanimously agreed with the Clarkes’ suggestion to schedule a workshop to address the problems.

The item is up for discussion on tonight’s agenda. But the story doesn’t end there.

While attending one of the many meetings regarding their case, the Clarkes encountered Kay and Larry Wolfe, residents of the Gull Air Village senior mobile home community, who had been going through a similarly frustrating ordeal with the city over the construction of a deck under their carport.

“We had built a little landing about a year ago, and afterwards, good old Oldsmar told us the porch was too long,” Kay Wolfe told Oldsmar Connect on Saturday.

Kaye Wolfe looks on as volunteers work to reduce the size of the deck at her Gull Aire Village home.

Kay Wolfe looks on as volunteers work on the deck at her Gull Aire Village home in Oldsmar on Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016.

“We tried dealing with them, but it was impossible. They were very difficult to deal with. Very rude.”

“Every time I asked a simple question, they told me to talk to an architect, talk to an engineer,” Larry Wolfe added.

“They want everyone to do their work for them, and then they just rubber stamp it. It’s a moneymaking scam and a way for them to keep their jobs.”

Seeing another couple suffering with the same kind of problems they had been dealing with for years, the Clarkes quickly decided to help the Wolfes out.

“We started talking to the Wolfes on the phone, and we knew that what’s hard for them wouldn’t be hard for us,” Sheri Clarke said.

“We saw a way to turn what’s been a negative experience into a positive one for everyone.”

On Saturday, the Clarkes led a group of volunteers, including Oldsmar City Council member Dan Saracki, to the Wolfes’ home to cut three feet off the deck they had built that ultimately was deemed to be in violation of city building codes.

Oldsmar residents work on the deck at the home of Kaye and Larry Wolfe.

Oldsmar residents work on the deck at the home of Kay and Larry Wolfe on Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016.

The Wolfes, who moved to Oldsmar about five years ago and had never met the Clarkes before, said they were very surprised, and very grateful, for the help.

“When Matt called, I cried,” Kay Wolfe said.

“Nobody’s ever done anything like this for us. We’re always the ones helping others.”

According to Matt Clarke, all it took to get a group of volunteers together was a social media post.

“I just put the word out on Facebook, and these guys responded,” the native Aussie, who calls the group the “O-Town Crew,” said. “They’re really great people.”

“And Lowe’s gave us all the materials at cost. So that was really cool of them.”

Oldsmar City Council member Dan Saracki helps with the project at the Wolfes' home on Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016.

Oldsmar City Council member Dan Saracki (r) helps with the project at the Wolfes’ home on Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016.

Saracki, who is in the midst of a reelection campaign, said he was there to help his friends, the Clarkes, and not to condemn anyone employed by the city.

“Matt and Sheri are my friends, and I’m here to help the people in our community,” Saracki said.

He also noted that the upcoming workshop should benefit citizens as well as city officials and employees.

“I think the work session we schedule will teach us all about the permit process and help us become more informed,” Saracki said.

“It’s a volunteer organization, and we’re here to work together and learn together. No one is perfect. We’re all learning together.”

As the sunny morning turned into early afternoon and the project neared completion, the Wolfes provided the crew with hot pizza and cold beverages.

Credit: Matt and Sheri Clarke.

Credit: Matt and Sheri Clarke.

In between slices and sips, Matt Clarke acknowledged how nice it was that he and his wife have been able to turn theirs and the Wolfes’ negative experiences with the city into a positive.

“It’s really cool how the whole community came together for this,” Clarke said.

“A week ago, we didn’t know (the Wolfes) from a bar of soap. And that’s really, to me, what a community should be.”

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