MINSTER – An abandoned sewer system and bad decisions have been cited among the reasons for a lawsuit filed Wednesday, April 15, in the Auglaize County Common Pleas Court against the village of Minster and Helms and Sons Contracting over flooding damages after a May 17, 2019, flood in the Northeast Sanitary Sewer/Second Street Sewer Project sent 6 inches to 2 feet of water and sewage into nearby basements.
The lawsuit claims in excess of $25,000 in damage to the properties. A final dollar figure is not yet determined.
The plaintiffs are Edward and Lisa Goebel, Maria Dahlinghaus-Poeppelman, Mitchel Poeppelman, Maurice and Grace Boeke, Craig Sherman, Chris and Christine Van Iderstine, Josephine Corbit, Tyler Meiring, and Renee and Jay Purpus.
According to Lisa Goebels., they felt a lawsuit was their only avenue now since all parties parties involved which include the Village, the contractor, and their representative insurance companies have refused to accept responsibility for compensation.
Reasons for lack of responsibility they have cited for include the rain storm being an act of God or that the government is immune from prosecution.
“We have tried everything we can to get any of the parties involved to take responsibility for this,” she said. “We did not want a lawsuit.” But she said no one was offering up the real story. She said one insurance company’s claim that over 6 inches of rain flooded the area that night were specious. “I have all the meteorological records that show only 2 1/2 inches fell that night.”
The plaintiff’s attorney Sean Alto of Cooper Elliott said,“None of my clients caused the flooding. Because both the contractor, the village, and their insurance representatives have been content to point fingers instead of making this right, we were left with no choice.”
The complaint lists problems with the project that began when the village selected Helms and Sons Contracting. Due to negative comments, the suit claims that an oversight company was hired to oversee the contractor’s work.
The lawsuit also describes the work to be performed by Helms which included the installation of storm sewer modifications, water main, sanitary sewer, service laterals, sidewalks, curb and gutter, and installation of a sanitary sewer down a portion of Garfield and Second Streets.
The complaint goes on to say that:
“During the initial phase of construction, Helms discovered an abandoned sewer line on Second Street and reported the discovery to the village of Minster.
“At that point the village of Minster instructed Helms to remove the abandoned sewer line, which constitutes destruction of a sewer system. On Second Street behind Plaintiff Goebel’s property is a lift station. All sewage from the surrounding neighborhood goes to the lift station where the sewage is then pumped from the lift station to the treatment plant.
“The lift station is in close proximity to the Miami Erie Canal. There is an overflow pipe from Second Street to the Miami Erie Canal.
“As part of the destruction of the abandoned sewer system, Helms—at the direction and control of the Village of Minster—created a trench box on Second Street in part to block the pipe from the Miami Erie Canal and stop water from the Canal to interfere with the work.
“On May 17, 2019, it rained in the Minster area causing water in the canal to rise. The rising water and sediment in the canal entered the pipe that was blocked by the trench box.
“The trench box created by Helms was negligently constructed. This negligent construction caused water to flood the trench box and the lift station, which in turn caused the lift station pumps to stop working. Once the pumps at the lift station stopped working, sewage from the lift station flooded into the Plaintiffs’ homes causing substantial damage to the Plaintiffs’ real and personal property, as well as the loss of use of their homes for a substantial period of time.”
Goebels said some of the basements of the affected homes are still not usable. As to flood insurance, she said most residents had the standard of $5,000 limit on insurance.
It is expected that this lawsuit will go to a jury trial, according to Alto, although there no date has been set.
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.