Council members debate claim related to sewer back up


A request to compensate a property owner for damages done when a sewer line backed up was partially approved during Tuesday's meeting of the Wayne City Council.

Nearly an hour of discussion was held on the claim from Allison Szantor against the city for damages sustained in the lower level of her home on Pine Heights due to a sewer main being blocked.

The claim had been submitted to the city's insurance carrier and the $24,054.03 claim was denied. The insurance carrier said the city was not at fault, as they were doing what needed to be done.

Casey Junck, Water/Wastewater Superintendt, presented a timeline of the incident, stating the city was called in to address the situation on Nov. 9, 2022 and at that time felt they had dealt with the problem. However, the sewer backed up again on Nov. 23, 2022 and following that incident, the city took measures to deal with tree roots that were in the sewer main.

The actual blockage was several hundred feet from Szantor's home and when asked why her home was the only one affected, Junck said that when the blockage occurred the sewage took "the path of least resistence" and entered her home, which is lower than surrounding homes.

Szantor spoke to the council on the extent of the damage and the costs she has already incurred because of the blockage. She said that one half of the living space in her home was affected.

She noted that a bill for over $8,000 to ServiceMASTER for clean-up work they had done at her property has not been paid and she is incurring additional late fee charges. She also presented estimates from ServiceMASTER on costs of repairs to the home. This estimate was $12,325.14. In addition, Szantor lost personal property in the amount of $3,618.

She noted she is concerned that because of these expenses, she is concerned she may have to file for bankruptcy and possibly lose her home.

"I am not at fault for this," Szantor told the council.

Insurance can be purchased to deal with this type of issue; however Szantor did not have coverage and she told council that her research said only 5-10% of homeowners do have this coverage.

Council member Matt Eischied said "this is one of  our most difficult claims. It could happen to anyone of  us and we have to take care of our citizens."

He proposed the city paying the $8,386.88 bill from ServiceMASTER as that is an actual expense that has been billed. He also told Szantor that when she has actual costs of repair, rather than an estimate, she could return to the council and ask for consideration of payment. He stressed that this is not a guarantee of payment.

Council members approved this payment on a 4-1 vote with Council member Clayton Bratcher voting against and Mayor Cale Giese casting a vote in favor.

Wayne Senior Center Director Diane Bertrand presented the yearly update on the facility.

She told the council that the number of meals being served through the Senior Center, including Meals on Wheels, Drive-Thru and congregate meals has risen and is currently between 70-80 meals per day.

She listed a number of improvements planned and said "our kitchen is not designed for this amount of cooking. We are looking to repair the counter tops and cabinets and at that time, some of the plumbing needs to be replaced."

Following Bertrand's presentation, council members approved the submission of the Senior Center's Fiscal Year 2023 detailed plan of operation and budget to the Northeast Nebraska Area Agency on Aging.

Resolutions in regard to the city's public transportation system were also approved. These include applying for Nebraska Public Transportation Funds, approving a local match and updating the Title VI Non-Discrimination Plan-2023 for  Public Transit.

A resolution approving an inter-local agreement between the city of Wayne and the Board of Trustees of the Nebraska State College was approved.

The resolution involves a sewer project on the northwest portion of Wayne State College. The city's share of the costs is $72,700.30. The college will pay for the remainder of the project.

Ordinance 2023-6 received first reading approval.

Andy Forney with D A Davidson spoke to council on the issuance of $7.5 million in Tax Supported Municipal Improvement Bonds.

He said the bonds would be similar to "a draw-down loan" and could be used for a variety of projects, including the Prairie Park building, renovation of the former Ameritas building and work on Fourth Street.

In other action, council members approved an ordinance amending the city code in regard to temporary occupancy permits. This would pertain only to dwellings in R and B Zoning Districts.

Following a public hearing, council members tabled an ordinance that would have amended the city's Future Land Use Map of the Comprehensive Plan for the City of Wayne.

Discussion centered around re-zoning an area on the east side of Main Street at the south end of Wayne.

At the present time, the homes in the area could not be re-built should any natural disaster or fire destroy them beyond 60% of the value.

The item will be brought back to the council at a future meeting.

Council members were in favor of moving forward with the sale of three properties on South Lincoln and South Sherman Streets to the Community Redevelopment Authority.

The possibility of moving three homes adjacent to Wayne State College to the area is in the preliminary stages of discussion and the CRA sought council approval before moving forward.

The Wayne City Council will next meet in regular session on Tuesday, April 4 at 5:30 p.m. in council chambers.


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