Officials sued for $100 over blocked culvert

May 15, 1994|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,Sun Staff Writer

A 73-year-old man has sued the county executive and other officials for $100 over a periodically blocked culvert that causes flooding during heavy storms and leaves debris on his property.

Luther V. Cox of the 2600 block of Kenwood Drive in the southwestern section of the county paid $61 to file a suit over the flooding at his property and to have several subpoenas served.

He thinks that when you have lived in the same house for 22 years and are paying $1,300 in annual property taxes, the county ought to help you out.

Retired since 1980, the wiry, gray-haired former insurance sales man and telephone collections business owner is gruff.He speaks his mind -- bluntly.

He said he calls county government offices "at least once a day" and that if his gruffness offends officials, "it's too bad."

"It is my right to voice my opinion, and they should have to listen," he said.

He said those who answer the telephone for County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann always ask, "How can I help?"

His usual response: "No 10-cent clerk can help me. When I want to speak to Rehrmann, I don't want to talk to no clerk."

To Mr. Cox, the civil lawsuit he filed at the District Court in Bel Air is a matter of justice and principle.

Filing the complaint cost him $5, the subpoena of Mrs. Rehrmann an additional $8. Mr. Cox also paid $8 each to have subpoenas served on Jeffrey D. Wilson, County Council president, and Joanne S. Parrott, District B councilwoman, both Republicans; and four employees of the county highway department.

His complaint stems from a storm of July 19, 1993.

Several weeks before that, Mr. Cox said, he had Mrs. Rehrmann visit his property.

The purpose was to let the executive see firsthand that the culvert that allows the small stream and drainage water to flow under Kenwood Drive through three 26-inch pipes becomes clogged with debris.

The stream runs along a 60-foot easement carved beside Mr. Cox's well-landscaped property.

"It was a matter of preventive maintenance," Mr. Cox said. "I warned her what would happen if the stream wasn't cleaned out, but she wouldn't do it."

When the storm hit, Mr. Cox said, large logs and other debris washed into the culvert, clogging the pipes and causing the water to overflow the road.

When the water receded, the debris was scattered on his property, he said.

"I used to have 10 kids living in the neighborhood, and I would pay them 50 cents an hour, keep them busy during the summer. The first thing I'd have them do is clean out the culvert," Mr. Cox said.

Those children have grown up, and Mr. Cox said he is not able to climb into the culvert to do the work himself. He said he figures that the taxes he pays ought to cover the county's cost.

Robert N. Hockaday Jr., director of government and community relations for the Rehrmann administration, said Wednesday that he had visited Mr. Cox's property "at least four times and once with Mrs. Rehrmann."

Mr. Hockaday said that all ditches -- the county's term for culverts such as Mr. Cox's -- are routinely cleaned every spring by the Department of Public Works.

"Kenwood Drive is no exception," he said.

Mr. Hockaday said the administration's staff treats all constituents with respect and tries to solve their problems.

But he said Mr. Cox has to learn to deal with people in a more understanding manner.

"Obviously, Mr. Cox doesn't agree, but I always say, 'Treat others as you want to be treated,' " Mr. Hockaday said.

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