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City tank leak could lead to lawsuit

By Meg Dickens
Staff Writer

During its monthly meetings, the Mountain City Council has been discussing making repairs to a private property allegedly damaged by city equipment. The issue has again raised its ugly head during the Council’s last meeting on Tuesday, August 4. According to City Council members, the property owner has been patient, but the problem involving a city-owned water tank across from Suba’s restaurant reportedly goes back to nearly two years.

Now officials have expressed concerns that the long-running issue may “turn into a lawsuit. City officials mentioned that the tank had not worked correctly since a damaged valve was replaced on it more than five years ago.

“We’re liable, in my opinion,” said Vice Mayor Bud Crosswhite, who has been an advocate for fixing the issue since the beginning. “If we don’t do something to fix this, we’re going to have a lawsuit on our hands.”

The problem centers on the water tank that leaks and overflows, causing flooding, which, according to the homeowner, causes water heater and basement damage that could potentially lead to black mold.Crosswhite expressed concerns about potential mudslides and damage to storage areas nearby. City lawyer George Wright stated that he needed to be more involved, but it seems like the town does have a liability.

According to Mountain City Mayor Kevin Parsons and Crosswhite, the goal is to return the property to its original state, but current repair estimates fall between $50,000 and $60,000 with an additional $50,000 if the city fixes affected roads.

If the city decides to take these steps, the funds to cover the project would have come out of the city’s water fund. Additionally, the town has hired Foundations Systems Engineering for landslide evaluation and repair recommendations at the cost of $11,100.

“I know funding would be a major issue,” said Mayor Parsons. “We do have an opportunity to get some grant money that was made available to us. “

According to City Recorder Sheila Shaw, “insurance would only be a factor if there was proof the city is at fault.” Shaw reiterated engineer Brian Fredrick’s statement saying the leak contributed to damage but did not cause it directly.Crosswhite countered that claim, explaining that the owner had video and photo evidence with times and dates and had shown him during a recent visit to examine the property.

Other than money, another issue the Council had to address is finding workers to complete the job. Alderman Lawrence Keeble suggested looking locally, but the council has hit roadblocks on that front. According to several officials, these different contractors have either asked the city to do the work with advice or take responsibility for any liability issues.

As of the publication of this article, the decision on what action to take has not been made, and the above-mentioned-property owner has not threatened legal actions.

The Mountain City Council meets the first Tuesday of every month at City Hall, located at 210 South Church Street, at 6:30 p.m. Meetings are currently held through ZOOM.com., to off-set risks during the COVID-19 pandemic. Recordings are available a few days after the meeting on the city website, mountaincitytn.org.