Damages blamed on Streetscape work
BY KEVIN BONESKE
The flooding that occurred this summer in the basement of the State Theater at 110 N. Brown St. and the subsequent molding that developed is being blamed on the downtown Streetscape project, though no one involved in the handling the work, nor the city of Rhinelander, which contracted out the project, is taking responsibility for the damage.
Rhinelander public works director Tim Kingman informed the city’s Water/Wastewater Committee at Monday’s meeting that an inlet basin was installed behind the theater to improve the drainage.
“The contractor opened up the side area – there wasn’t pavement there, but there was all kinds of things in place to keep things from washing out,” Kingman said. “On July 12, the local utility company came through and installed a gas service pipeline in very close proximity to where something later failed – a wall failed, a window well wall failed in the back side of the theater.”
In August, Kingman said there was “a very big storm, which manifested itself to the point where water undermined near the gas line and near this inlet and traveled into the back side of the theater.”
After the flooding occurred, Kingman said the city and the contractor were at the theater to document what happened. However, he noted each one of the insurance agents involved in the matter favored denying they claim.
Committee members also heard Monday from property owner George Rouman of the Rouman Amusement Co. regarding what happened at the vacant theater building, for which he informed the city the cleanup and mitigation costs would run at least $117,420.15, based on two bids he obtained.
“We first discovered (the flooding) the first week of August,” Rouman said. “Clearly, the building is unoccupied, but we are regularly going through and checking things out, especially through the process of this construction.”
He said the rain caused “a tremendous amount of flooding” in the old dressing room areas of the State Theater building in the rear basement.
Initially, Rouman said there was some molding that occurred in the basement with the initial bid he had to do the cleanup work around $30,000.
However, he said the theater was unable to have the related cleanup covered by its own insurance company, which claimed a “technical exemption” for flooding and the building not having flood insurance.
Rouman said he agrees no city work was responsible for the damage to the theater, for which “it clearly was one of the contractors or (a) utility subcontractor.”
“I’ve spoken with all of their companies, all of their insurance people and they all are denying it,” he said. “They’re saying it had to have been the other guy…or whatever it was, and I have a formal letter of denial from every one of the other parties that are involved.”
Rouman said the mold has spread since the flooding was first discovered in early August, and now the price quotes he has obtained to remedy the related damage exceed $100,000.
“I need somebody to initiate some kind of a claim, so I can get, or somebody can get, the cleanup process going,” he said. “Because the only way right now I can get that building cleaned up is for me to dig into my own pocket.”
Rouman said didn’t have the $30,000 initially when the theater’s insurance company wouldn’t cover the cleanup costs and also now can’t proceed without a guarantee from an insurance company to pay for the work.
“It’s only getting worse, and I can’t even turn the heat on the building now because the environmental people are telling us now that any fans would spread the mold even more, and it would just make it worse,” he said.”I don’t know what to do. I’m just in a really difficult situation here.”
By not initiating the cleanup and mitigation work, Rouman said “the building is literally rotting away.”
Committee members agreed to the recommendation of the city’s insurance company and the city attorney to deny the claim, noting that the city didn’t do anything to cause the flooding damage to the theater.
“I think if we would step into it at this point…it would seem that we are assuming some sort of responsibility, and that would make me very, very nervous,” said committee member Sherrie Belliveau.
However, the committee members suggested to Rouman that he initiate legal action to be able to determine the responsible party and that he also contact the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state legislators who represent Rhinelander in Madison as to any assistance they could provide him.