City settles sinkhole suit

by Michael Mosher on October 16, 2012

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MARIETTA — Last week, the city of Marietta authorized Trident Insurance to settle the case of Faye S. McBee v. City of Marietta during the consent agenda portion of its city council meeting.

City attorney Doug Haynie said before the meeting, the settlement agreed to pay $5,000 and make repairs to two Wright Street properties — McBee’s home and the former home of Brenna Bentley Bitler, who has since moved to Atlanta.

“She had a drainpipe in her front yard that collapsed,” Haynie said about McBee. “She’s alleging that the city installed it 50 years ago. Nobody has any clue who installed it. This was a problem that needed to be fixed and the pipe had to be rerouted through her property.”

The settlement includes acceptance of the donation of right of way and temporary easements at the McBee residence and the house next door.

“As part of the agreement, Ms. McBee is also giving the city right of way on the front of the property along the street for stormwater use,” City Manager Bill Bruton said after the meeting.

The matter began more than a year ago.

According to previous Journal reports, in April 2011 she discovered the ground beneath her driveway had eroded dramatically.

City workers found the partial collapse of a drainage pipe running under the two houses and filled the crevice with gravel, which subsequently washed away.

The city repeated its gravel procedure but also offered to repair the drainpipe for nearly $3,000 and signatures on an indemnity agreement, in which the homeowners would not hold the city liable if the repair failed.

McBee refused.

Gravel washed away again and the price jumped to more than $13,000, which Bitler wanted to pay but McBee again turned down.

The Bitlers grew concerned their house’s foundation would give way, while McBee feared the results of more gravel washing into a nearby creek and causing flooding to her neighbors’ homes.

In August, the city council approved a new offer in which it would pay $14,000 to reroute the pipe, matched by more than $8,000 from the homeowners, but without repairing the damage to the property.

McBee again declined.

In September, former Gov. Roy Barnes filed a lawsuit in Cobb Superior Court to pay for the cost of repairing the damage, which by that point included a collapsed driveway, and keep the city from trespassing on her property.

The item had originally been on the main agenda for discussion, but was moved to consent during the premeeting review session as all city council members agreed on its disposition.

“If there’s no objection, it’ll be on consent,” said Mayor Steve Tumlin.

While the vote was 7-0 for the consent agenda, Councilman Philip Goldstein abstained from that item as McBee’s attorney, Barnes, also represented him.

Trident will remit the settlement within 30 days, Bruton said.

The settlement has not caused the city to change any of its policies, he said. 

McBee did not attend Wednesday’s city council meeting and could not be reached by press time.

Full article…here

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