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Portland denies damage claims after water main break: 'Where do our tax dollars go?' - KGW.com

Portland denies damage claims after water main break: 'Where do our tax dollars go?' - KGW.com

Portland denies damage claims after water main break: 'Where do our tax dollars go?' - KGW.com

Posted: 06 May 2019 12:00 AM PDT

PORTLAND, Ore. — Homeowners impacted by a catastrophic water main break in March say the city of Portland denied their claims for damage to their property on Monday.

Claims for alternate living expenses and business interruption were also denied. A total of 11 claims were filed and then denied, according to a city spokeswoman.

For several weeks, home and business owners were anxiously awaiting a response from the city regarding their tort claims, but they were hoping for a different answer.

The massive break on the 30-inch cast-iron water main happened about two months ago in Northeast Portland. It sent a geyser shooting up into the air, and millions of gallons of water rushing down the streets.

RELATED: Neighbors mopping up after water main break sent water rushing into garages, basements

The hole in the road on Northeast Skidmore Street is patched up and the water main repaired. But people whose homes flooded are still dealing with the aftermath.

"From sidewalk to sidewalk it was underwater, so it was like a river just flowing down the street," one homeowner AJ Kleffner said.

Kleffner had about 3 feet of water in his garage and basement caused by the ruptured 104-year-old pipe.

"It was a total disaster and here we are, seven weeks later, and we're looking at the same thing," he said.

Kleffner spent thousands out-of-pocket on restoration and remediation so far; crews ripped out dry wall, insulation, carpet and flooring to prevent mold.

"At this point we're like $12,000 out of pocket and that's just to get things stabilized. But to put it back to the way it was before, we're looking at over $50,000, and that's on us. If the city is not going to step up and take responsibility for this, that's on us," Kleffner told KGW. "And as a homeowner how do you just come up with 50 grand to just restore your home back to the way it was?"

Just around the block from Kleffner, Ryan Humphrey had to do the same.

Since Day 1, it's been on him, his family and his neighbors to mitigate the situation. He also brought in a restoration crew to prevent mold from building up. 

RELATED: Crews repair water main that broke in NE Portland; street will be closed 1-2 weeks

Along with losing many irreplaceable, precious family heirlooms and other belongings, Humphrey says he's out about $20,000 already. While waiting for the city's response, he had to pay for restoration and a new furnace. He modestly expects to cough up around $60,000 to 70,000 to fix everything.

"At this point if the city is walking away from us, then we have a lot of things, like do we replace things that our kids had?" Humphrey said. "I feel as a homeowner, I'm taking the burden or taking the brunt of an aging infrastructure we can't even manage anymore."

Humphrey says no one from the city, other than the fire department, has actually stepped foot on his property to assess the damage.

"I feel like it was an all-hands-on-deck matter initially and now it's just out of sight, out of mind. Well this isn't out of sight and out of mind to me," Kleffner said as he showed KGW his torn-apart basement.

Kleffner and Humphrey say their insurance companies wouldn't cover any of the damage. Insurance considers the event a flood because it was surface water that inundated their homes, and people in the neighborhood don't have flood insurance because they don't live in a flood plain.

Both filed claims with the city right away, seeking compensation for damage. But both found out Monday they were denied. 

"I look at it from the standpoint of magnitude and duration," Humphrey said. 

Portland Water Bureau Public Information Officer Jaymee Cuti said 12 valves were involved in this particular main break. Cuti says the water was reduced to a manageable level to start repairs around 5 p.m. and within 38 hours, the pipe was repaired.

Ultimately, homeowners feel the city of Portland is at fault for the faulty, old pipe. 

The city said it investigates claims on a case-by-case basis. To pay out, they must find the city was at all negligent.

In the city's denial letter, the homeowners provided us, the city wrote it was a spontaneous water main break. The letter says the ruptured part had no documented maintenance issues and the remainder of the main was in "good condition." The city said it wasn't negligent, so it's not liable.

Read the denial letter:

In an e-mail to KGW before the denial letters were sent Monday afternoon, City of Portland Office and Management and Finance Public Information Officer Heather Hafer said the claims process takes a substantial amount of time. 

"Our website states that it takes approximately 45 days to gather all necessary information, but then additional time may be needed to review and make a determination. And oftentimes there is additional fact-finding work that needs to be done. We hope to be able to provide responses to claimants very soon," Hafer said.

RELATED: NE Portland residents stay positive despite water main break flooding

"I don't understand how there'd be any perspective that would think the city is not at fault for this when this is infrastructure they maintain. Where do our tax dollars go?" Kleffner said. "Our aging infrastructure, it needs to be addressed. This isn't OK for citizens to have to pay tens of thousands of dollars just to put their home back together."

Kleffner and Humphrey are left footing the bill themselves, but both say this isn't the last the city will hear from them. Taking the next step, they say, is going to hurt and they'll likely have to do some of the reparation work themselves to stay economical.

"At the end of the day there's a relationship between citizen and government and it's a two-way street. And it doesn't feel like a two-way street right now," Kleffner said.

First steps to take when your home floods - KWCH

Posted: 08 May 2019 05:02 PM PDT

BELLE PLAINE, Kan. (KWCH) A flooded home or basement can be difficult to dry out. Recent heavy rain across south-central Kansas means many people are contacting restoration crews to help mitigate the damage.

Preston Stover with Stover's Restoration says the company started receiving calls as early as 4 a.m. Wednesday and it didn't slow down from there. One of those calls came from the Belle Plaine Elementary School which was forced to cancel classes due to flooding in the building.

Stover says they have crews as far as Hutchinson, Moundridge and Emporia dealing with similar flooding. He says there are a few things homeowners can do right away to make the cleanup process run smoothly.

Stover recommends contacting a plumber right away. He says restoration companies will likely be backed up and can't respond immediately. A plumber will be able to identify how water is getting into your home and help put a stop to it. He then recommends removing furniture and electronics from the flooded area and removing the carpet if you can.

Stover says homeowners should also try to do as much as they can on their own before a restoration team arrives. He says that will help speed things up and prevent future problems like mold.

"Mold is something to be worried about without mitigation. What I worry about more is people think that the water just stays in their basement and it doesn't affect the rest of their home. The longer that water sits there, the higher the humidity in the home gets. Then the first story of your home can be affected," said Stover.

Stover says a typical water mitigation job can take three to five days to dry out.


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