On May 15, a sewage spill occurred at the Riverbend Cabins when the pumps that operate the lift station at the city's wastewater treatment plant failed. In addition, the alarm system installed to alert city staff of this problem failed. This caused the Steamboat II Metro District sewer lines to back up into six of our rental units.
A reasonable person might assume city staff would have handled this event quickly. That was not the case. Calls placed to city staff went unanswered for 16 hours, and there was no crisis management team to assist with the ramifications of the spill.
When a response came, it appeared promising. City officials arrived and told us they would pay for temporary housing and any losses or damages. In addition, the city's insurance adjuster came to the site and advised us on which items should be disposed of or retained and safely cleaned. He reiterated what was said, which was to keep an itemized list of damages because the city would reimburse us for our losses.
Unfortunately, these assurances were short-lived when, four days later, a second adjuster came to the property and told us the city was not assuming responsibility for the spill, so we should file claims through our own insurance agencies.
Half of us affected by this spill had insurance. Yet, our insurance companies refused to reimburse us for our losses because the problem began at the lift station, not on our property.
The final blow came two days ago, when we received letters from the city's insurance company stating, "the City regret(s) that this unfortunate incident occurred and that you have sustained damage from this incident; however, the City (is) denying your claim because of the immunity provided by the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act." According to this act, a governmental entity is immune from paying damages when the design of a facility is found inadequate, which is what the city is declaring in this instance.
The simple fact is that this spill occurred because the pumps at the city's lift station failed to run, and although the city may be able to claim immunity under the law, that doesn't make it the right thing to do.
We ask you, Steamboat, is it reasonable for the city to use a legal dodge and deny us the reimbursement of damages for the relatively small amount of $60,000, when, at the same time, it is discussing the possibility of spending millions of taxpayer dollars to renovate its own rental property (Iron Horse Inn)?
The Riverbend Cabins provide affordable housing for the type of citizens upon which the city says it wants to build this community: nurses, school administrators, firemen, construction workers, young professionals, etc. We are the people who lost thousands of dollars worth of personal belongings, and we are the people the city now is saying do not matter to them.
Does the city really care about the working class citizens who provide the "heart and soul" of this community, or is that just lip service?
City Council members and city staff, if you really do care, then do the right thing - live up to your initial promise and reimburse us for our losses. Sixty thousand dollars is a drop in the bucket of your budget, but a couple thousand dollars will break ours.
Brenda Barr, Linda Boom