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GRAND JURY TO PROBE ROLE OF SHODDY CONSTRUCTION

A grand jury investigation has been launched to determine whether shoddy construction is to blame for massive hurricane damage at five South Dade County subdivisions.

The Dade County State attorney's office on Thursday requested the Metro Dade County building department to turn over construction plans for five developments: Country Walk, American Homes, Deerwood, Hampshire Homes and Lakes by the Bay.Hampshire Homes and Lakes by the Bay were built by Lennar Homes. Lennar built parts of Deerwood, as did HMF Investments, a unit of defunct Flagler Federal.

Arvida Co. built about 1,300 of the 1,700 homes at Country Walk. Carib Construction built American Homes.

Prosecutors made the request as part of a grand jury investigation into whether shoddy construction was responsible for some of the damage sustained in the storm, the Miami Herald reported Friday.

Carlos Bonzon, Metro Dade building and zoning director, said he was complying with the request.

Metro Dade's own investigation into shoddy construction apparently has uncovered numerous examples of slipshod work by state-licensed contractors.

Meanwhile, Florida officials blasted a U.S. Senate committee vote against giving President Bush the money he wants to rebuild hurricane-wrecked Homestead Air Force Base.

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved Bush's $7.2 billion hurricane relief package Thursday with the single exception of $480 million to rebuild the base. Instead, it allocated just $26 million to remove rubble and plan its possible reconstruction.