Provo, Utah Needs Extra Money to Settle Claims

June 22, 2005

Utah’s city budgeting office has requested an additional $100,000 from the Municipal Council to replenish the diminished insurance-claims fund.

The original budget allocated $200,000 for that fund for the 2004-2005 fiscal year, but during that time, the city paid out nearly $200,000 to settle claims made against the city and more than $450,000 to settle several years-old lawsuits.

According to an itemized list of claims the city provided at the request of the Daily Herald, Provo paid out $191,886 to settle 49 of the 70 claims made against the city since May 2004. The rest of the claims are either pending or have been denied or dropped.

The payouts range from $35 in car repairs after a vehicle hit a dip in the road to $109,089 to pay for the cleanup and repair of a backed-up sewer main in January.

In all, Provo paid $147,527 to settle six claims stemming from clogged sewer lines – an exceptionally high amount, said Terry Welsh, city wastewater collections manager.

“We average around four to five sewer backups a year, but they’re usually not that extensive,” he said.

Welsh said the most costly backups occurred after tree roots grew through a sewer main line in northeast Provo.

“We are responsible for the city main,” he said. “The homeowner is responsible for the house out to the main and the connection.”

Welsh said the homes most affected by the backup were flooded by up to eight inches of raw sewage, which oozed up through drains in the homes’ basements.

City attorney David Dixon said Provo settled three lawsuits that had been pending for years. “We paid out more than we usually do,” Dixon said. “But we’re glad to have them settled.”

The city paid $100,000 to settle a suit with Michael Hyde, a former city employee who sued the city for $1.5 million in 2003. Hyde alleged he had been deceived by city employees into thinking that his job with the city was an “at-will” position – meaning he could be fired at any time without his bosses having to show cause.

He claimed that because he was misinformed, he did not challenge his own firing.

The denied that city employees had intentionally defrauded Hyde.

Dixon said Provo also paid about $365,000 to settle a pair of personal injury lawsuits from 2001 and 2002.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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