by Becky GINOS
WOODS CROSS—Residents whose basements were flooded with water and sewage after a pipe broke Feb. 27 in the area of 1450 W. 2300 South were relieved when the city council announced they would step up and cover the damages. This came during an emergency council meeting held April 5 following a somewhat contentious regular meeting April 3.
Initially, the mayor said the city’s trust/insurance company’s experts found the city was not at fault for the leak that bubbled up and ran down the street filling the sewer system and causing it to back up in the early morning hours of Feb. 27.
“Our experts looked at the situation and found that there was nothing the city could have done,” said Mayor Rick Earnshaw at the Tuesday meeting. “The pipe broke at 2 a.m. and was not reported until 4:30 a.m. We had no clue that the asphalt lifted and the water from the street was going into the sewer. If we’d known the pipe was going to break we’d have been in there and fixed it and we wouldn’t all be sitting here.”
Earnshaw explained that the city had $100,000 of no-fault insurance they could use to give each resident about $5,000 toward the repairs. “Even though we have no legal responsibility for the damage that was done that’s not who we are,” he said, getting emotional. “We’ll help pay the costs for the damages done. We wouldn’t wish this on our worst enemies. You’re our family and we love Woods Cross and want to do what’s right.”
About 24 homes were damaged. “We had about three inches of water throughout our basement,” said Rhett Cleverly. “Everything in our basement had to be pulled out. I have three pods of stuff that didn’t get wet and I found out my insurance won’t cover anything. The city’s insurance adjuster called me and said it would be done in three phases, cleanup, reconstruction and possessions. Then later when I called she said it was being denied.”
Cleverly said he and several other neighbors got together and were ready to sue depending on what the council said at the (Tuesday) meeting. “We decided to back off but we’re ready to go if they don’t come through,” he said. “If they would have responded we wouldn’t be in this mess. I’ve been given estimates of $10,000 to $12,000 because my basement was done. We’ll have to have walls put back and new flooring – it destroyed the whole thing.”
Another resident thanked the city for getting a cleanup service out so quickly but then put the blame back on them. “I think you guys are responsible,” he said. “The city street is your responsibility. You guys need to take care of it just like if something happened on my property you’d expect me to take care of it. Saying you’re not at fault is unacceptable.”
The mayor asked that an emergency meeting of the council be set for April 5 to discuss an ordinance to allow the no-fault money to be used.
Following a closed session on April 5, while several anxious residents waited in the council room, the mayor announced the city had decided to use additional funds to make up the difference between the $100,000 no-fault money and the approximately $300,000 needed to cover the damages.
“It is our intent to make up the difference between what your insurance will cover or won’t,” said Earnshaw. “That will help us spread the dollars around but if you’re denied we’ll pick up the bill. I assure you we’ll take care of you. You are our friends and neighbors.”
City Administrator Gary Uresk said there were details to work out but each resident must submit a claim through their insurance and provide documentation of their decision.
“Some of you might be worried about your rates going up,” said Council member Ryan Westergard. “Insurance companies know there are going to be claims. In my experience one claim shouldn’t impact your rates.”
Uresk offered to meet with each homeowner to work through the process. “I’ll meet with the trust people and get the ball rolling,” he said. “I’ll call to set up a time to visit. You’re probably going to get to know me more than you wish because we’ll need to meet several times.”
Although a few residents raised some questions on how the money would be distributed, most were happy with the outcome.
A budget hearing was placed as an agenda item for the next city council meeting set for April 17.