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Herriman residents want city to pay after berm failure flooded homes

Posted at 9:46 PM, Sep 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-22 23:48:25-04

HERRIMAN, Utah — A group of Herriman residents spoke out through letters and public comment at a city council meeting Wednesday night, blaming the city for a flood that damaged homes back in August. They said the issues with flooding dates back years, and the city hasn't properly taken care of the problem.

While resident claim the city dropped the ball, Herriman City's insurance company has ruled that the city is not liable.

When Ryan Phillips built his dream home Heritage Place Estates, he never imagined he would have to rebuild his entire basement just a few years later.

Standing inside an empty room with torn-out sheetrock and construction materials strewn about, he explained how a flood crashed through two children's bedrooms. Thankfully, they weren't inside at the time.

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"The water just broke right through the window and filled the room with water," he recounted.

It turned every room into a pond, ruining most of the belongings of the family who rented the basement apartment. Phillips had to tear everything out.

He said neither his homeowners insurance nor the family's renters insurance would cover what he estimates is tens of thousands of dollars in damage.

The basement wouldn't have flooded to the extent it did, he believes, it it weren't for a lake's-worth of water breaching a berm at the end of this street.

The berm separates his neighborhood from a field, meant to protect the homes.

"It held and collected water all throughout the day, and then just broke through and released a tidal wave of water all at once," he said.

After the flood, Phillips began looking at the matter more closely. He said the more he delved in, the more he learned about previous flooding in the area. He said the city started to build the berm because of the flooding.

"They had plans to finish it properly with drainage and everything. But, for whatever reason, it just got bogged down. They never finished it," he said. "But the city, they did not disclose that information to the residents."

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Phillips showed Fox 13 an email where a city employee explains that the flooding problems started five to seven years ago.

“The berm was constructed in an emergency response fashion and for whatever number of reasons it has yet to be revisited with the finishing elements,” the employee said. They later state, “As to the question of the breach of the berm... that simply was a low/weak point in the berm which showed itself by the breach.”

Because of that, Phillips thought the city would cover the costs.

But when he made a claim with Herriman City's insurance company, he was denied.

"The insurance company or the city, none of them have ever denied that the berm was done incorrectly," Phillips said. "The only thing they're saying, is that there is a statute in the Utah code that grants them immunity. And only because of that, they're saying, 'We're not going to help you.'"

Herriman City confirmed to Fox 13 Wednesday that a claim was made to their insurance company and denied.

"The reasoning for the denial, as per the insurance company, was that they had conducted an investigation and determined that Herriman City would not be found negligent or liable in the matter," spokesperson Tammy Moody wrote, in an email. "They also discussed the Utah law including immunity from liability regarding the management of flood waters."

The decision led to Phillips and others expressing frustration over the situation at Wednesday night's city council meeting.

"I'm just asking the city to cover my damages, that's all we're looking for," he said.

Letters written to the council urged the city to "do the right thing" and cover the damage, as well as take measures to mitigate future problems.

Phillips is hoping the council can authorize funds to help. He is also hoping the situation doesn't come down to litigation.

The city did come out and fix the berm, he explained.

Though that obviously doesn't help him now.

"Now that my basement's been destroyed, this berm that's been on hold for years- they suddenly made it a priority and managed to get it done," Phillips said. "But it's a few weeks too late for us, unfortunately."