City needs to pay for sewer backup, says couple

July 19, 2013

By Pat Maurer

Cathy Rendel outlines the damage caused by a sewer backup into their home at the end of May.

Cathy Rendel outlines the damage caused by a sewer backup into their home at the end of May.

Jack and Cathy Rendel were at the Clare City Meeting Monday evening to ask board members for help.

The couple is facing a $20,000 bill for cleanup and restoration of their basement after it flooded with water and sewage May 29.
“We do not have the funds to cover the cleanup already done, let alone the funds needed to rebuild or replace furniture, carpets, bedding, storage room contents, etc.,” Cathy wrote in a letter to the Commission.  She said Central Restoration was on site about nine days to do the cleanup.

At the meeting Monday, she said just the cleanup had already cost more than $8,000. Rebuilding the damaged basement and replacing all they lost will cost another $12,000, she said.

Because they didn’t know “sewer back-up” was an additional clause and not covered in their house insurance policy, they do not have coverage to pay for the damages in their finished basement on Glendale Street.

A claim to the city’s insurance was denied. “The letter from the City’s insurance company (Michigan Municipal League) says we have been denied any help as the city has no responsibility for the sewage backup,” she wrote.

The couple brought pictures of the sewage water coming up out of their basement toilet, shower and floor drain. “There’s just no way we could have that much coming from just our home,” she said, noting that the lateral line was new in 2005 and that they kept it cleaned out.

Acting City Manager Steven Kingsbury said in the City Manager’s report, “A careful review of the facts and documentation of the incident has demonstrated that the City’s sewer main was functioning properly the morning of the incident and that sewage in the main was freely flowing …”

Commissioner Jean McConnell asked, “Why did the sewer back up into the house?”

Kingsbury replied, “We don’t know. We would like to use video testing equipment from Coleman to find out why.”
Commissioner Tom Koch said, “The MML is always on the City’s side.” Kingsbury responded, “The Rendels feel their determination is incorrect.”

Koch said “I don’t know how the MML can determine who is liable.”

“We are totally appreciative of living in Clare,” Cathy Rendel said, “after living abroad for many years. We understand the city thinks their sewer was working. We are sort of pleading with you. This money is way beyond what we can take care of. We will still support the city regardless of your decision.”

Commissioner and former Department of Works Superintendent Bob Bonham said the problem may have come from some “footing drains” illegally tied into the city sewer system.  Footing drains, he said, are a drainage system around the outside of a basement. “They (the Rendels) couldn’t have flushed that much water. I disagree that they are responsible.”

He continued, “The city has paid sewer claims before that the insurance denied. I can’t see us paying some people and denying others.”

Kingsbury said he was told by City Manager Ken Hibl that there have been two instances of a similar problem. “The bottom line is we need to find out what happened. If we find out there is responsibility for the City, we will take responsibility.”
Mayor Pat Humphrey agreed, saying, “are going to find out about this. We aren’t going to let this go.”

Other business at the City meeting included:

*Approval of ordinance changes adding minimum square footage requirements for homes, rental units and commercial properties.

*Approval of another extension to the Teamsters Supervisory Unit contract. Kingsbury said he expected the contract negotiations to be complete soon.

*Approval of the slate of candidates for re-election to the MML Workers’ Compensation Fund Board of Trustees.

*Re-Appointment of Judy Brankel to the City Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and Dean Doherty to the Downtown Development and Brownfield Redevelopment Authorities.

*A report that the City of Clare has received confirmation from DTE Energy awarding the City a $10,000 grant towards moving the railroad depot.

*Information that US-10 Car Cruise will be held August 3, starting in Clare.

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