Mike McKibbin

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October 24, 2012
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Flooded residents get city funds for damages

Two Rifle residents received a share of $5,480 from the City of Rifle as reimbursement for flooding damages to their homes due to a water line break that was not turned off in a reasonable time, city officials said.

City Council approved the payments to Kathie Squires, 528 Railroad Ave., who operates Little Friends Childcare from her home, and Craig Wilcox, 536 Railroad Ave., at their Oct. 3 meeting.

City Manager John Hier said a city water main serving Heinze Park ruptured in April. The resulting water leak flooded both properties. Wilcox experienced damage to his furnace and water heater while Squires primarily experienced damage to landscaping.

The city filed insurance claims with its carrier, the Colorado Intergovernmental Risk Sharing Agency, or CIRSA, but were denied, Hier said. CIRSA denied the claims because the city is entitled to governmental immunity and the water line broke due to the age of the pipe, not negligence by the city, Hier added.

Also, since the city's liability insurance carries a $5,000 deductible, CIRSA would not have paid, even if negligence were involved, Hier noted.

Hier said he believes the city is at least partially responsible for these damages.

"Our crews were slow to get water valves turned off, and the leak continued to run for an extended period of time," he said. "This could have contributed to the flooding."

Squires told the city that water washed all the bark that was cushioning the playground equipment area either to areas where it was not needed, or to the neighbor's backyard. Water also entered a shed and a crawl space, damaging books and art paper, she said.

Squires requested and received $2,515 in reimbursement.

Wilcox said water entered the basement of his house and damaged his hot water heater and furnace. He asked for and was granted $2,965 to cover damages and replacement costs.

"I think our crews figured out a way to more quickly address this in the future," Hier said. "At one point, we had to completely shut off water to all of White River Avenue, probably 50 to 100 homes, before we found a way to isolate the leak."

City Councilman Keith Lambert said he felt two and a half hours - the time it finally took to turn off the correct valves - was well within the time it should take to respond and address to a broken water line.

"A day and a half is not appropriate," he added of the time the water did leak from the break. "I think this is a case where we should help cover the expenses, since we were at fault."

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The Post Independent Updated Oct 24, 2012 06:13PM Published Oct 24, 2012 06:12PM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.