Commonwealth Journal

Local News

August 29, 2013

Sinkhole generates questions of liability

City researching who should repair it


Somerset —

 “It’s just too much water back there,” Pete Wronikowski said during the meeting. 
Pete Wronikowski told Girdler he would have appreciated a phone call back from the city to let him know the progress of the situation. 
“It can’t be a quick decision because we have to determine whether or not those sinkholes are a direct result of city activity,” said Girdler. 
City of Somerset Attorney Carrie Wiese said she hadn’t received any response from the insurance company as of Monday evening. 
“As far as I know, there’s not been a denial of coverage letter,” said Wiese. 
Pete Wronikowski told the council on Monday that the drainage holes have been blocked by dirt and debris, and asked whether those can be unclogged. 
Councilor John Ricky Minton and Councilor Pat Bourne both raised questions on whether the city can unblock those drains — but Girdler said it’s a gray area because the drains are located on a neighbor’s private property.
“We have no legal rights to tell a property owner what they can or can’t do on their property,” said Girdler. 
Minton asked where the liability lies should the Wronikowskis’ yard gets flooded again as a result of the clogged drains. 
“If someone plugged them up and he (Wronikowski) gets flooded, would they be liable?” asked Minton. 
Wiese affirmed that.
Councilor Jerry Burnett, an acquaintance to the Wronikowskis, said the flooding issues on Richardson Drive have been ongoing, but he said he’s hopeful the city can work to take care of the problem. 
“It takes a lot of water from four different directions,” said Burnett. 
“ ... There’s sinkholes all over Pulaski County, all over Somerset,” Burnett later said to Wronikowski. “ ... I’m just thankful it hasn’t damaged your house.”
Pete Wronikowski on Wednesday said he would just like to know what can be done with the sinkhole, and he said the high volume of water that runs through the area appears to have led to erosion issues as well. 

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