Storm sewer 'conflict' heads to mediation

Brian Cuaron

June 13, 2011 at 1:13 a.m.

Keith Redburn installed this 5-ton concrete wall in front of a storm sewer culvert on March 28. He has since taken it down. His case against the city is going to mediation.

Keith Redburn installed this 5-ton concrete wall in front of a storm sewer culvert on March 28. He has since taken it down. His case against the city is going to mediation.

Not everyone is sure that a proposed solution to a Victoria resident's storm sewer complaint exists.

A mediation hearing on Keith Redburn's complaints about a storm sewer in his backyard is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.

He has said since 2006 that it brings trash onto his property. He has also said that the sewer erodes his soil.

"I'm not looking forward to the delays or to dragging this out anymore," Redburn said.

Robert Houston, the mediator, said he would separate both sides into separate conference rooms at the Heritage Mark building. He said he will talk with one side in confidence, then the other side and vice versa.

The mediation is scheduled to last all day, but can even continue late into the night, Houston said. He added that as mediator, he usually asks both sides to allow him to make a decision on when to call an impasse.

"Everyone knows what the facts are. It's just we got to make a decision," Houston said.

Frustrated with the situation, Redburn installed a five-ton concrete wall in the sewer's culvert on March 28. District Judge Stephen Williams ordered that Redburn take it down.

Redburn has since had it removed.

But Williams also ordered that the storm sewer issue go to mediation before either side incurs additional attorney fees and expenses.

City Attorney Thomas Gwosdz said that the judge based his call for mediation on a presumption found in the court order: "Also, the court notes that the plaintiff has offered the city to resolve this matter at little to no expense for either party."

However, Gwosdz said he doesn't know what offer Williams was referring to. "I haven't seen that offer yet," he said.

Williams declined to comment on the ongoing case. He referred the Advocate to letters that went back and forth between Redburn and the city.

Yet Gwosdz said that Redburn and his attorney have proposed three illegal or undoable solutions.

One is that the city re-route the water. That isn't feasible since natural waterways move back to their natural course, Gwosdz said.

Another proposal is that the city pay Redburn $1,500 a month for the privilege of coming onto his property and cleaning up the storm sewer, Gwosdz said. Yet the city can't spend public money for a private benefit, he added.

The last solution is that the city allow Redburn to pipe the storm sewer himself without any studies, Gwosdz said. But Gwosdz said that any public improvement project must be engineered.

"We can't legally accept two of his three offers. The third one is not feasible," Gwosdz added.

The mediation doesn't come cheap. Both sides must pay an $800 fee, as well as attorney costs.

What would occur after a successful mediation depends on what proposal is agreed upon, Gwosdz said.

Should the mediation fail, Redburn may request that the matter go to trial. The case would then be assigned to Williams.

The judge said he made sure of that in his court order since he has already heard a lot of the evidence.

Gwosdz said that the city will work toward a successful mediation.

"The city would love to resolve this conflict without further litigation," Gwosdz said.



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