Dispute comes out of leaky storm drain Rosedale resident, county disagree on damage cause, who should pay for repairs

August 03, 1998|By Jamie Smith | Jamie Smith,SUN STAFF

The way John Naumann Jr. sees it, Baltimore County officials caused $30,000 in damage to his home because they ignored a leaky storm drain for 10 years -- and he wants them to pay up.

Naumann claims that the underground drain, which runs between the two houses he owns on Goldenwood Road in Rosedale, is responsible for erosion that led to an unstable foundation under one home, cracks running up the walls and across the driveways, sloping sidewalks and sinkholes.

But county officials see it differently. When Public Works contractors arrived several months ago to repair the separated bTC joints on the drain, they left the other problems alone. In a letter to Naumann recently, Public Works Director Charles R. "Bob" Olsen said the damage to the property has "no connection" to the drain.

"Nobody seems to be able to tie it to [the drain]," Olsen said in an interview. "I can't authorize taxpayers' money to pay for something that can't be tied to that."

In the latest twist, Public Works officials said they would not fix damage caused by repair on the drain because Naumann threw the workers off the property.

"I don't feel I should be responsible for what they caused," said Naumann, 56, who lives in a red-brick house in the 8600 block of Goldenwood Road and rents the house next door to his son. "How many other residents in the county are they doing this to? This is just plain wrong. I want the repairs done and want them done correctly -- and that's all I want."

Steven Foehrkolb, who lives across the street from Naumann and is the Goldenwood Gardens Civic Association president, said the neighborhood plans to start a letter-writing campaign to help him. "You're talking about a man's home. That's not right," he said. "It could happen to any of us."

Naumann said the first sign of a problem was a sinkhole that appeared in his back yard about 10 years ago over the area the drain runs through. When water went into the sinkhole, it came out of the drain. He called the county, and workers filled the hole with soil.

Over the next several years, Naumann said, the sinkhole would reappear and county workers would fill it again -- until late 1994, when a new sinkhole developed. This time, workers left the hole alone and fenced the area, he said. As the hole grew, they moved the plastic orange fencing back, he said.

Meanwhile, Naumann says, dirt was being sucked down the hole, eroding his property and causing home and yard damage. He said that repeated calls to the county since 1994 were met by promises that the drain would be repaired, but repairs were put off.

Olsen, who agreed that the sinkholes were linked to the drain, said it is not unusual for drain joints to be a little loose, so a problem has to be "significant enough to go in and fix it." Bidding the work out to contractors added to the delay, he said.

To get to the drain, contractors pulled out the driveway, removed some steps and dug up mounds of dirt, all of which they were going to repair. But before they could, Naumann -- apparently frustrated that the county would not fix his house's foundation and other problems and concerned that more damage was being done -- ordered them off.

Olsen said the county would not take responsibility for anything affected during the drain repair because Naumann cost the county about $17,000 by keeping workers off his property, leaving no money for the work.

"We certainly would have liked to have gone through this on a more friendly type of basis, but that wasn't the case," Olsen said.

Naumann said he doesn't regret throwing workers off the property and he's not backing down. One possible action is a lawsuit against the county.

"I'm the most determined person on the face of the Earth," he said. "I never give up."

Pub Date: 8/03/98

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