By Charles Sercombe
There’s good news and bad news for the residents who sued the city because their basements flooded.
First the good news.
The City Council agreed to settle two separate lawsuits regarding basement flooding for $1.6 million.
But don’t start popping the champagne corks. Here comes the bad news.
You likely won’t get diddley-squat.
In fact, in an ironic twist, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit will have to pay a special tax – along with everyone else — that will just about equal what they will get from the lawsuit settlement.
Guess who makes the most money?
You guessed it, it’s the attorneys. Their share is one third of the settlement – plus their costs.
City Attorney James Allen estimated the attorneys for the plaintiffs will walk away with $600,000.
To pay for the settlement, a court-imposed tax will be placed on this December’s property tax bill, if all things go on schedule. That tax will amount to 5 mills. Another 3 mills will be placed on next summer’s tax bill.
If the city fails to meet all the time deadlines for December’s bill, all 8 mills will be placed on next summer’s tax rolls.
For the average Hamtramck property owner, it will mean paying an extra $140 to $180.
That’s just about the same amount of money most of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit will eventually receive.
There are a few plaintiffs who will receive about $7,000 each because they were the lead figures in the case.
The council agreed to the settlement in order to “avoid further legal expense,” said Mayor Karen Majewski.
If there is anything resembling a silver lining in this matter, it’s that Hamtramck is suing Detroit. Hamtramck is arguing that Detroit failed to properly hook up its main sewer and water lines to Hamtramck’s lines.
Hamtramck says this is what causes backups in basements when heavy rains occur.
The lawsuit covers two flooding events, one that happened three years ago and another one that occurred last spring. In total, several hundred residents claimed their basements flooded with foul sewer water.
The Review is seeking the names of those individuals who joined the lawsuit.
City Council candidate Robert Zwolak has been outspoken of his criticism of residents who joined the lawsuit, saying they were essentially “suing each other.”
City Attorney Allen said that, unless the city fixes its sewer problem, “we are going to continue to have these events.”
However, the cost of repairs is estimated to be about $60 million, said City Manager Bill Cooper.
In a related move, the council agreed to seek a state grant worth up to $1 million to fund a study on how to go about making those repairs. If the city wins the grant, it would have up to two years to begin repair work, or face having to repay the state grant.