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Thursday, July 21, 2011

City Gets Bill For Sewer Backup Damage

Eight property owners haven’t forgotten their frustration with sewage in their basements last summer.

At the June 21 meeting of the Gothenburg City Council, residents submitted claims totalling $261,548 for damage caused by sewer water in their homes.

In June 2010, nearly 10 inches of rain in several days drenched the city and caused sewage to pool in basements and groundwater to flood homes throughout town.

Ogallala attorney Gregory Beal prepared the claims for each resident, noting in a letter that the city has a duty to maintain the sewer system and protect plaintiffs’ property from sewage coming from, and backing up from, city-owned pipes and the sewage system and not preventing groundwater from getting into the system.

Damage was caused by the city’s negligence, the claims say.

The claims also state that city officials were aware of sewage system problems in 2008 but didn’t take steps to fix them.

No one from the public spoke when the claims were presented to the council which acknowledged receipt but took no action.

City administrator Bruce Clymer has said that the wastewater treatment plant wasn’t designed to handle the amount of water received during the extraordinarily high rainfall event.

For years, Clymer said a sewer study has been discussed, and finally implemented, because of groundwater infiltration issues.

A new sewer line was installed a couple of years ago and a sewer system study is ongoing.

After flooding last summer, the city offered to help pay for check valves on homes to stop sewage from flowing into basements. Clymer said no one took advantage of the offer.

This June, areas with sewer problems were televised and cleaned.

In other action, the council decided to look into what other non-profit entities are not billed for water.

The decision was prompted by a request from the Gothenburg Roping Club to have water fees waived at the roping grounds.

City attorney Mike Bacon said the city cannot do that.

As a result, city clerk Connie Dalrymple said Monday they’ll have to make sure all non-profits pay for water use, noting that the Gothenburg Baseball Association has never paid for water usage at the Legion ball field.

The council is scratching its head about what to do about traffic issues at the Fourth Street and Highway 47 intersection.

Former councilman Ken Christensen had asked the council to look at some kind of traffic control at the intersection.

Nebraska Department of Roads officials had studied the intersection at First Street and Highway 47 at the request of Baldwin Filters officials.

Baldwin Filters employees use the intersection for coming to and leaving work.

In a letter to the city, officials said there wasn’t enough criteria met—such as crash trends— to justify the installation of a traffic study or signal.

However Clymer said Tuesday he received word that the NDOR will study traffic issues at the intersection of Fourth Street and Highway 47.

On another issue, the council discussed a request by Jerry and Janet Kranau not to cut down cedar trees encroaching the alley behind their home at 2101 Ave. F.

The Kranaus received a letter from the city asking them to remove or cut back the trees.

The Kranaus trimmed the trees but not to the liking of the administration.

Clymer said the governing body has control of streets and alleys so the decision lies with the mayor and council.

Council members will revisit the issue at their July 5 meeting.

During other business, the council gave the Gothenburg Chamber of Commerce the go ahead to have its annual Farmer’s Market on Thursdays, July 14-Sept. 29, from 4:30-6:30 p.m., on 10th Street between Lake Avenue and Avenue F.

They also okayed the route on Lake Avenue for a parade during Harvest Festival on Sept. 17.

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