City denies flood claims with a six-figure total

Following advice of insurance company, Port council decides not to pay for damages incurred by residents, businesses

Several cars that were parked outside and in an underground parking lot at the Lighthouse Condominiums at the corner of Lake and Jackson streets in Port Washington were destroyed in the Aug. 27 flood. Press file photo
By 
KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Ozaukee Press staff

The Port Washington Common Council on Tuesday denied hundreds of thousands of dollars in claims filed by victims of the Aug. 27 flood.

The city’s action was recommended by its insurance carrier, EMC Insurance, which essentially said it will not cover the damages because the flood was an act of God, City Administrator Mark Grams said.

The city received roughly 10 inches of rain in about as many hours overnight on Aug. 26 and 27, flooding streets and overwhelming the city’s storm sewers. The damage to homes and businesses was significant, caused by everything from backed-up sewers and drain pipes to overwhelmed or failed sump pumps to floodwaters that pushed their way into homes.  

  “We definitely feel sorry for any flood damage that occurred,” Tony Matera, the city’s insurance advisor with Ansay & Associates, told the council.

But, he said, the city’s insurance is a standard government policy that doesn’t extend to its residents or cover residential flooding or sewer back ups.

“The residents have the responsibility of having flood coverage,” Matera said. 

Eight claims were filed by the Harborside Holiday Inn and Lighthouse Condominiums as well as nine individuals — Stanley Guokas, Thomas and Linda Brown, Anthony Rychtik Jr., Mike and Jill Reed, Douglas Schulze and Curt and Lisa Sauer.

Grams said he does not know if more claims will be filed with the city.

“I tend to doubt it,” he said.

He told the Common Council that denying the claims “basically sets the clock,” noting homeowners and businesses now have six months to file any actions against the city.

Even as the city rejected the claims, it continues to look into ways to mitigate or prevent future flood damage.

Last week, the Board of Public Works reviewed a report on the Valley Creek flooding and how it could be mitigated but took no action, instead agreeing to continue discussions at its January meeting.

The report noted that debris clogged the culvert leading from the creek to Lake Michigan, causing significant flooding in the area, and it recommended that a trash rack be installed to help prevent this from occurring again.

The report also looked at various ways to channel any water that doesn’t flow through the culvert to the lake.

“What we have designed currently is able to deal with the 100-year storm under perfect conditions,” consultant Rich Klein of Stantec Consulting Services said.

But for a 500-year storm like the one in August, he said, “it’s going to go through places you don’t want it to go.”

The city is also looking at ways to mitigate flooding on its west side.

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