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Published August 01 2010

West Fargo man wants city to cover repair costs

Larry Wacha said he waited months for West Fargo officials to restore his property to its original condition after it sustained flood damage he believes was caused by city-backed construction and development projects in the area near his home off 32nd Avenue South by the Sheyenne River.

But when the city’s hired contractor hadn’t fixed Wacha’s land to his satisfaction by this summer, Wacha decided to make repairs himself, and he wants the city to reimburse him for the cost.

City officials said they’ve repaired Wacha’s land above and beyond what they needed to and have denied Wacha’s request for personal reimbursement.

On Monday night, Wacha plans to take his case to the West Fargo Commission and ask them to approve an $800 reimbursement for money he spent out of pocket for his repairs.

“They made all these promises to restore my property,” Wacha said. “They tried to make efforts with the contractor to get things replaced and put back the way they were, and they’ve been failing on every count.”

Wacha said the $800 in work he personally did includes landscaping and seeding to repair portions of his land that were flooded in spring 2009, Wacha believes, because of city-sponsored projects near his home.

Wacha asked West Fargo city Administrator Jim Brownlee last year if he could make the repairs himself and be reimbursed, and Wacha was told no because a contractor had been hired to do it.

But Wacha still doesn’t feel the work was done.

“My question to them, with all the problems we’ve been having out here: Is this the general practice for the city of West Fargo to go ahead and pay contractors that don’t get the job done and then when a person straightens out his own property, they won’t pay him?” Wacha said.

Brownlee said the city spent between $3,000 and $4,000 for a contractor who went out several times to work on Wacha’s property and make things right by replacing many of Wacha’s trees and bushes and planting new grass.

“In our opinion, we restored it not only to as good as it was before, but better,” Brownlee said. “There’s a point where there’s only so much you can do.”

The neighborhood where Wacha lives off 32nd Avenue near the Sheyenne River has been a hotbed of problems for the city since last summer, when a project to install box culverts in the river was met with repeated setbacks and issues for the residents.

The residents, like Wacha, dealt with property damage, torn-up landscapes, riverbank slides, utility shut-offs and possible water contamination.

City officials have previously pledged to make the residents whole again in regards to that project and are still discussing how to resolve concerns with at least some of the residents, who retained legal representation to address their complaints.

Wacha isn’t among them, but he said if the city doesn’t reimburse him for the issues he’s had on his land separate from the 32nd Avenue bridge project, he’ll likely join his neighbors.

“They never took the gumption to get it back the way it was,” Wacha said of West Fargo officials’ effort to restore his property. “I’m no big troublemaker or anything. If they pay me, I’m fine. If they refuse again, then I’m going to get an attorney, too.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541