Last month I wrote about the ordeal of Pete and Ethel Nelson, who are battling the Metropolitan Council over who will pay to repair their home and yard in the aftermath of an immense sewer reconstruction project. The start of the next phase of the sewer upgrade has been a contentious issue before the Victoria City Council, with council member Kim Roden putting the Met Council’s feet to the fire about improving the way it responds to property owners’ claims of collateral damage. Today, Roden told me she’s pressuring the regional government to take a second look at the struggle of another Victoria property owner, Gary Corwin.
Corwin, a pilot for the airline formerly known as Northwest, has lived on Virginia Shores Circle with his family since 1988. He told Whistleblower that the excavation for the sewer shifted the footings under his deck, cracked his foundation and warped his house to the point that windows and doors don’t open and close. “You can tell it looked like an earthquake,” he said. He estimates the damage at $200,000 to $250,000.
Just as the Nelsons were instructed to do, Corwin filed a claim with the insurance carrier for contractor S.M. Hentges and Sons. That insurance company happens to be American International Group, better known as AIG, the recipient of $180 billion in bailout money from U.S. taxpayers after its disastrous business decisions threatened to torpedo the nation’s economy. In Corwin’s case, such largesse was not reciprocal. In March, AIG denied his claim, saying videotapes taken before the construction of Corwin’s house showed the cracks to be pre-existing.
That same month, however, a forensic engineering report commissioned by Corwin’s insurer, American Family Insurance, determined that even though many of the cracks were present in the house, “the construction on and along Smithtown Road not only caused the existing cracks to open up more but caused additional damages to this dwelling.” So Corwin was lucky – his insurance company will compensate him, and then take on the fight with AIG to get paid back.
From the Met Council’s perspective, the Corwin claim is a dispute between insurance companies and the agency isn’t involved. After AIG denied Corwin’s claim, the Met Council “requested an inspection of the Corwin residence to investigate claim” but was denied by the family, according to a June 8 summary of property damage claims. Roden said she got a commitment from a Met Council staff member to visit with Corwin and see the damage for himself.
In the meantime, the Victoria council has delayed a vote on the next phase of the sewer project for two weeks. It’s now scheduled for July 27, Roden said.