More than three months after being forced out of her home to let crews jackhammer her floor apart, 74-year-old Betty Wiens is happy for some simple comforts.
She has carpeted floors that lie flat, instead of exposed concrete buckled badly enough to turn an ankle on.
Her walls are smooth — not cracked like they were.
The doors of her home open and close normally rather than jamming at the frames.
"I feel like it's fixed properly," said Wiens, a widow. "So when my kids go to sell it after I die they can have a clear conscience."
But repairing her 5-year-old home in the Maple Shade subdivision on Webb Road just south of Harry in southeast Wichita wasn't cheap.
Her house was built by Clint Miller Homes on what many engineers think is unstable fill dirt that has settled over time. That led to massive cracks in the slab foundation, which led to cracking walls and shifting door frames.
Crews drove support pillars as deep as 45 feet to reach solid ground. There are now more than a dozen pillars supporting her house.
Her final bill is expected to total about $80,000 on a house she bought for $141,000.
She said she was fortunate to have a daughter in Derby she could stay with while crews broke away the vast majority of her slab foundation, leaving her living room more like a small motocross track than a habitable dwelling.
But after three months of making almost daily visits to her house to talk with contractors and collect mail, she's glad to be home.
She doubts she'll ever be compensated for the damage that she says she couldn't have foreseen.
But she is the first of seven homeowners in the eastern-most portion of the subdivision who are paying to have their houses entirely repaired.
Homebuilder Clint Miller did not return several calls seeking comment for the story, but city officials say he has hired an engineer to examine at least one other nearby house.
Miller told The Eagle last month that the Maple Shade problems remain a mystery to him.
"I don't think I'm ever going to get anything out of (Clint Miller)," Wiens said. "I'm kind of resigned to that. I don't like it."
In late January, city officials brought Miller to the home of Maple Shade resident Steve Garner, ordering the builder to develop a plan to fix the slab foundation patio home by mid-February.
Garner's house has numerous roof leaks and a growing foundation crack bisecting the house from the driveway through the kitchen and dining room out across his patio
Garner declined to comment this week on the progress of the repairs, citing possible litigation in the case.
But a source close to the ongoing Maple Shade investigation said that no plan has materialized to repair Garner's 3-year-old house and the homeowner is seeking tax relief for the broken house from the Sedgwick County Appraiser's Office.
However, a structural engineer, Paul Sullivan of D&B Engineering, inspected Garner's house earlier this month, one of the city's requirements for Miller. The results of that inspection have not been released.
The Maple Shade case still could land in court.
Former U.S. Attorney Randy Rathbun, who represents several of the Maple Shade homeowners, said Friday he's continuing to research liability issues for the housing failures, for Clint Miller, and for the city's inspectors who signed off on the shoddy construction.
The city's role
While Wiens hopes to resume a normal life in her home in coming days, the city is continuing its review of problems in her subdivision, according to Kurt Schroeder, superintendent of the Office of Central inspection.
It remains unclear whether the city will present evidence to the board of code standards and appeals that could lead to Miller's contracting license to be suspended or revoked.
Schroeder said that will, in part, depend on Miller's efforts to resolve problems in Maple Shade.
In addition to sending a letter to Miller demanding he hire structural engineers to explore two houses, inspectors also required Miller to cut samples out of a concrete floor in a partially completed house in a different subdivision.
Schroeder said that the samples proved Miller's concrete depth meets city code.
Meanwhile, a task force of engineers and construction experts that was assembled after The Eagle's investigation into Maple Shade continues to formulate new standards for building houses with slab foundations on certain types of soils.
Schroeder said he expects recommendations from the task force by early spring.
"I think a lot of hopefully positive recommendations are being developed and coming out of this task force discussion," he said. "It's pretty positive stuff, I think."