Thursday, August 27, 2009

"Widmer Fights City Over Big Hole" - Part 1 of a Series

This series will dwell on the failure of the Small Claims Court to fulfill it's mission, Judge Joe Vespa and Public Works Director, David Barber. Terry Bibo of the JS, covered my second appearance in court before Judge Vespa who was to determine the validity of my complaint. I'll highlight what Terry wrote in case you missed Part 1 of Ms. Bibo's 3 columns. City Councilman Gary Sandberg, who was concerned enough to come down to look at the "hole" I hit, was also in attendance. Also, coming to the site after hours was Pat Landes, City planner, (at Sandberg's request) who agreed to determine exactly what it was I hit and who was responsible for correcting what she agree was a problem. Sandberg agreed "Widmer has a point and it's got to be fixed". Later on, probably at the request of counsel, neither returned my phone calls.

The city had nine months to correct the problem, when they didn't and after I belatedly learned that my insurance company had not passed on to me the letter from city denying ownership of the "hole", I decided to file a claim in June, 2009. The letter said what I hit was the responsibility of the Greater Peoria Sanitary District and was a sewer drain discouraging my insurance company from trying to collect the $500 deductible on my policy contract from the city. At my request a manager of the GPSD visited the site with his computer refuting the City of Peoria claim (presented by the cities insurance company) who wrote, "review of such hazard discovered it to be a sewer drain rather than a 'pothole' hole".

How did this claim, denials, part truths, misconceptions and subtle lies come about? Read on and you will see how my experience may or already has affected you.

On August 7, 2008, when I was turning right in my car leaving the White Oak Mall located at the corner of Knoxville and E. Lake Ave., dropping in a 12" deep "hole" blowing a tire and cracking my bumper. This paved exit and entry was marked by exit and entry arrows. My dilemma was observed by Randy Swenson, Public Works Planner, City of Peoria, who was involved in a city overlay of E. Lake Avenue westbound. Randy gave me his card after observing the "hole" I landed in was a poorly designed water collector on city property. When I was to appear in court, I asked Mr. Swenson if he would testify on my behalf. Why he didn't, will be covered under Mr. Barber involvement in this mess.

I filed my insurance claim with my insurance company who paid all repairs except the $500 deductible I had agreed to on signing my contract with State Farm agent, Bobby Humbles. They said they would attempt collect the $500 from the city for negligence. They were stymied when the City said the "hole" was a sanitary sewer drain and not their responsibility.

Later, I saw City Public Works Director, David Barber, (more on him later) told him about the accident and was assured that he personally would examine the site. As the months went by, nothing was done to correct what was later to be determined, a storm water inlet on Peoria City right-of-way. I saw Mr. Barber in May of 2009 and asked him about the problem area and he said it was not the cities problem. I told him I had no recourse except to sue the city.

Part 2 - what I learned in filing my claim next.

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