Village agrees to split the sewer backup bill this time

Price tag is nearly $7,000 from incident
Ozaukee Press Staff

The Village of Fredonia has agreed to split the costs of damages caused by a sewer backup in a village home, but moving forward, homeowners will not receive payment and are expected to insure themselves against backups.

A sanitary sewer backup last year which spilled into the basement of 137 Edmar St. caused $6,842 in water damages to a basement bar, carpeting and drywall.

Homeowner Ken Karrels said he has home insurance but that it does not cover sewer backups.

The Public Works Committee discussed whether the village should assist in the damages on April 24.

Public Works Director Roger Strohm said neither the village nor the homeowner were responsible for the backup, and that it was likely something flushed elsewhere in the village that caused the clog.

Strohm said it would cost the village between $4,000 and $5,000 each year to insure against sewer backups. He noted that backups do not occur regularly, not even annually.

“That would be similar for paying for a sewer backup every year whether we have one or not,” Village President Don Dohrwardt said. “So that doesn’t seem to be a good option.”

Backup coverage for homeowners would be about $150 each year, he added.

Strohm said he is concerned about setting a precedent of paying for each backup outright but committee members did not want to leave Karrels footing the bill for something that was not his fault.

The committee recommended to the Village Board that the village pay half of the damages.

The Village Board discussed paying for the damages on May 17.

To see how other municipalities handle sewer backup damages, Strohm compiled a report of practices from nearby communities. According to the report, the Village of Saukville has a special fund for covering damages, neither Grafton nor Belgium cover damages and Cedar Grove has covered damages but no longer will. Damages have also been covered in communities where backups were caused by contractor work third parties.

Dohrwardt said there are no guidelines across the board for how it should be managed and that municipalities often handle complaints case by case.

Village ordinances state that the village is not responsible for damages caused by backups in the lateral but does not specify what should be done if backups occur in the main.

Trustee John Long said the village should pay the full amount of the damages because the sanitary sewer is a service the village provides and is paid for.

“I think it should be paid for because it is our problem,” he said.

Long motioned to pay the amount in full. The motion was seconded by Trustee Bruce Paape but failed to pass in a 5-2 vote.

Long then motioned to pay half of the total, which passed by slim margins in a 4-3 vote with trustees Bill McCarty, Dan Gehrke and Joshua Haas dissenting.

Dohrwardt said while costs will be split on this occasion, that the village will clarify its ordinance to state that the village is not responsible for future backups. He added that the village will also notify homeowners that they should insure themselves against backups on the next water bill or village newsletter.



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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Port Washington, WI 53074
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