Nebraska Couple Says Bridge Work Destroying House

May 17, 2011

A Rulo couple wants the state to either buy their home or pay to repair structural damage they say was caused by ongoing construction of a nearby bridge.

The $32 million bridge will carry traffic on U.S. Highway 159 over the Missouri River between Nebraska and Missouri, replacing RuloBridge to the north. Construction started in September and is expected to take two years. The Nebraska side of the bridge is being built 38 feet from Kathy and Ron Hoagland’s house.

“We did not want to live under a bridge,” said Ron Hoagland, 57. “It ruined our whole life plan of having a peaceful place to retire.”

The couple told the Lincoln Journal Star that the state bought some of their neighbors’ houses but only wanted a small piece of their land. Now, they’re faced with damage, including 3-inch cracks in their concrete patio and foundation that they say was caused by construction.

But the state Department of Roads said there’s no way to tell whether the damage to the 1,300-square-feet house was caused by construction, so it’s not paying.

“That property had been sitting underwater for four months during spring floods last year,” department spokeswoman Mary Jo Oie said. “It was not clear at all what caused the damage. It was not due to the construction of the bridge.”

Oie said the Hoaglands got $32,000 for the piece of their land the state did buy and noted it was well more than the appraised value of their home, about $12,500. And because the Hoaglands don’t list the Rulo house as their primary residence, they don’t qualify for relocation assistance.

The Hoaglands have moved to another home they own in St. Joseph, Mo., but they say no one would want to buy their Rulo retirement home now. The couple believes the house they bought in 1993, renovated and elevated eight feet to remove it from the 100-year flood plain is really worth $86,000.

“It just breaks your heart when you put so much into creating your dream,” said Kathy Hoagland, 58.

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