March 26, 2013

Testimony ends in flood trial, no resolution

April 1 deadline for written arguments

By Nita Johnson
Staff Writer

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — The parties involved in a lawsuit involving a commercial development that became a flood zone  will have to wait a little longer for a decision in the case.

The civil lawsuit, filed by Laurel Properties LLC, originally named the City of London as the defendant in the lawsuit. However, other parties soon were named in the complicated case that now involves more than a dozen attorneys and almost as many businesses.

The problem came to light in 2010 after massive rainfall flooded the area behind the Saint Joseph Medical Foundation Office Park, first established as Cumberland Medical Associates under Dr. Mark Adams. The flooding damaged the buildings and equipment and resulted in closing of the businesses for several days.

It was found that a drain had collapsed and was causing water retention problems in the area. The installation of the pipe was substandard and buried deeper than the regulatory 17 feet.

The problem now is dealt with by large drain pipes running from the West Fifth Street properties to the Bacho Development properties beside the Walmart SuperCenter and into the city’s storm drainage system.

After three days of witness testimony, Special Judge Robert McGinnis set April 1 as the deadline for all attorneys involved to submit their final arguments in the case. Once that is completed, McGinnis will make his decision.

“I still haven’t heard any testimony as to who installed the pipe,” McGinnis said as he instructed the attorneys to submit written arguments in the case.

Among those testifying late Tuesday and Wednesday were Steven Baker, superintendent of the London City Utility Commission. Baker, an engineer, said he became aware of the flooding problem and had even sent crews to the area to examine the drain. He stated crews were able to go 40 feet into the drain and could see where the pipe was collapsing, allowing debris to enter the area.

Property owner, Caroline Hendy, testified of the damages incurred by the 2010 flooding of both Insight Properties LLC and Eye Deal Eye Care. Hendy said she noticed the rising water when she left her office around 7 p.m. on Nov. 30.

“It had been raining and the water was up to the edge of the step to the entry way,” she testified.

But when she went to work the next day, she found water inside her building and more than $50,000 in damages from the flooding.

“There was two inches of water in every area,” Hendy said. “The carpet, an exam chair and the furniture were damaged.”

Some computers in her office had to be repaired, while others were ruined. She also lost four and a half days of business while cleanup was done.

State Senator and local realtor Albert Robinson also took the stand, being named as a defendant in the case. Robinson said he acted as realtor for Bacho Development and “worked for free” until a specific number of lots were sold to the commercial subdivision. Robinson, who was serving as state senator when the project began, said he obtained a grant to construct a passage that connected Meyers-Baker Road with the Walmart SuperCenter property that also bordered the Bacho project.

Robinson stated the drain pipe was already installed when the Bacho project began. He did state he had workers “cap” the drain by putting at least four feet of concrete to extend the pipe and accommodate the Bacho project.

Currently, the collapsed pipe sits under property owned by Big Blue Enterprises, located behind Microtel, and is adjoined by property owned by Rob-Hill Properties, which leases a medical facility to Saint Joseph London and the three neighboring buildings.

However, an unsigned deed and the lack of a copy of a permit for the original development along Ky. 192 leaves the question of who originally installed the less-than-standard pipe, which is also buried deeper than the normal range for sewer drains.

In the meantime, the city will continue to use the pumps to alleviate the water in the area.