The Washington City Council Monday approved two ordinances entering into a settlement with a resident suing for a failing retention wall.
Lisa A. Brown, who owns a home on Catawba Place, filed a civil suit against the city in July 2015 seeking damages caused by a failing retention wall on West Main Street. The wall is located near the rear of Brown’s property.
Under the settlement, the city’s insurance provider will pay $26,500 to repair the retaining wall. The work will be conducted as part of a larger sidewalk project slated for later this year on West Main Street, according to Director of Public Services John Nilges.
The wall is located on the north side of West Main Street, west of Tiemann Drive.
On Monday, the council approved two ordinances that address the retaining wall and lawsuit. The first executes the settlement with Brown. The second ordinance authorizes a $1,500 temporary construction easement between the city and Brown.
The construction easement will be paid out of the city coffers, according to City Counselor Mark Piontek. Both ordinances were approved with an 8-0 vote.
City Administrator Darren Lamb said once the work is complete, the suit between the city and Brown will be settled.
In January 2017, city officials stated that the wall is not the city’s responsibility to maintain and attempted to pass an ordinance to vacate a portion of the roadway. The council voted 7-1 on Jan. 3 against the ordinance to vacate the street.
According to Brown, the retaining wall, located about 5 to 7 feet from her property line, was struck by a city truck in October 2014. The impact caused damage to the wall. She added there were witnesses to the incident as well as a photo of a city truck near the wall taken the same day.
According to the city, the driver of the truck said he did not strike the wall while trimming tree limbs that were hanging over West Main Street.
Former City Administrator Jim Briggs told The Missourian last year the city’s intent was to “vacate their interest” in the land where the wall is located because it was built by a private resident. He added that the wall was first constructed in the 1960s and then rebuilt in the 1980s.
Brown has claimed that the city can’t vacate property without the consent of the landowners who would be responsible for the property.
Brown filed suit in Franklin County Associate Circuit Court seeking $25,000 in damages she says she has sustained due to the failure of the wall. She is represented by Dwayne Allen Johnson, St. Peters.
Last year she told The Missourian that she saw no other way to recoup the cost to damages to her property.
Brown obtained a $24,000 estimate to replace the retaining wall.
At the time, she added that if the city had turned the incident over to its insurance company when the truck allegedly struck the wall, the issue may have been resolved by now.
She further alleged that the city did not respond to the interrogatory — a list of questions one party sends to another as part of the discovery process — which resulted in new attorney fees for Brown.
Brown said she and two neighbors would be responsible for replacing the wall if the street is vacated. However, none of those residents were notified of the pending city ordinance.
If the ordinance had been approved, city officials said, the wall would revert to new ownership, who would be required to make repairs because of debris and mud spilling onto Main Street.
The West Main Street sidewalk project consists of expanding upon the sidewalk system around the fairgrounds and downtown, according to Nilges.
The project will extend the Front Street sidewalk to the west on the north side of West Main to Catawba Place. It also will include replacing a section of roadway that was damaged to a water main break spring of 2017.
It is funded through an 80-20 cost share grant through the Missouri Department of Transportation’s (MoDOT) STP “Small Urban Non Attribute” funds.
Those funds are allocated to the city without going through a competitive selection process, Nilges explained. The program is expiring, and all funds must be utilized by 2019.
“The current schedule is to lag this project approximately one month after Bluff Road,” he said. “However, it is subject to change and is highly dependent on when Bluff Road is complete.
“The city will not have Bluff Road and this project both under construction at the same time,” Nilges added.