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Published: Friday, 11/3/2006

West Toledo residents sue over flooding

BY MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Two homeowners who were among dozens of residents in a West Toledo neighborhood that was besieged by damaging floodwaters at least three times during summer storms filed a class-action lawsuit yesterday against the city of Toledo, Lucas County, and the owner of nearby railroad tracks.

West Crawford Avenue residents Brian and Kerry Bolander and Rebecca Hall filed the action in Lucas County Common Pleas Court on behalf of themselves and others whose homes were similarly damaged by floodwaters in June and July.

The city of Toledo, Lucas County commissioners, Lucas County Engineer Keith Earley, CSX Transportation, and unnamed John Does were named as defendants in the complaint, which was assigned to Judge Gary Cook.

The Bolanders and Ms. Hall believe that the class would consist of at least 75 other homeowners and involve more than 150 residents.

The plaintiff's law firm, Williams, Jilek, Lafferty, Gallagher & Scott, has sent letters to neighborhood homeowners, inquiring about damage to their residences.

The correspondence stirred the interest of James and Ruth McLean, who have lived on West Crawford for 60 years. The couple had to replace appliances, the furnace, and carpeting in their basement because of the floods.

"There was no excuse for this. The city should have done something to prevent this a long time ago," Mrs. McLean, 84, said. "We had never had flooding like this before."

The lawsuit alleges that the defendants were responsible for problems in the drainage of Shantee Creek and defects in the design, construction, maintenance, and management of sanitary and storm sewer systems, factors the plaintiffs alleged caused extensive flooding on June 21, July 4-5, July 10, and July 12.

Jacksonville, Fla.-based CSX Transportation, which operates the railroad tracks that run parallel to Laskey Road just north of the neighborhood, is accused of failing to maintain and redesign a culvert to prevent obstructions of the Shantee Creek drain.

Brian Schwartz, a spokesman for Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, said city policy prevents talking about pending litigation and he wouldn't comment on the lawsuit. Representatives for the other defendants couldn't be reached for comment.

In reaction to the severe flooding experienced by residents, the city began discussing making improvements to Shantee Creek, including cleaning and deepening ditches and retention ponds and widening a drainage channel to prevent more flooding.

In addition to asking that the complaint receive certification for class action, the plaintiffs want the defendants to adopt an emergency plan of action to improve sewer systems to prevent future flooding and "expeditiously" repair damage to the property of the homeowners.

It also asks for undetermined compensatory damages as well as payment for costs and attorney fees in bringing the lawsuit.

Contact Mark Reiter at:

markreiter@theblade.com

or 419-213-2134.



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