Fix likely on the way in Ogden sink hole saga, but who pays is up in the air

Friday , August 11, 2017 - 5:15 AM

MITCH SHAW, Standard-Examiner Staff

OGDEN — It appears Ogden City will step in and fix a leaking canal pipe that runs underneath 4th Street, but settling the final bill might be an issue.

Representatives from the Ogden attorney’s office, the city’s engineering department, Lynne Irrigation and residents who live near a reoccurring sink hole caused by the leak, met Wednesday afternoon to discuss the problem.

The sink hole, which sits in the middle of a city-owned street near 662 4th St., is being being caused by a large leak in a corrugated metal pipe. The pipe serves a Lynne Irrigation Company canal that actively flows beneath the road. 

RELATED: Reoccurring 4th Street sinkhole a headache for Ogden residents

Wes Randall, who lives immediately north of the sink hole, noticed it shortly after he purchased his home in the spring. He contacted the city and short-term fixes were made to the road, but the problem persisted and the hole continued to grow.

As crews worked on the road and Ogden checked to make sure the hole wasn’t being caused by one of their utilities, it was discovered that the problem was the decades old, leaking Lynne pipe. 

According to the Utah Division of Water Rights, Lynne’s water rights date back to Jan. 1, 1851. The company gets its water from underground wells, the Ogden River and Mill Creek. Lynne President Bob Giboney said the company provides irrigation water to about 500 Ogden residents who pool together and pay the privately-owned Lynne for their irrigation water.

The city has made multiple visits to the site, filling the hole, monitoring it deterioration, but so far there’s been no resolution. To date, a large dirt mound covers the hole in front of Randall’s home and the canal pipe is still leaking. The city has surrounded the hole with tape and construction barricades.

At the Wednesday meeting, Ogden Engineer Justin Anderson and Assistant City Attorney Mark Stratford said the city wants the problem fixed immediately and if Lynne doesn’t do it, the city will fix the problem and bill Lynne.

RELATED: WHERE DOES WEBER WATER GO ON THE WASATCH FRONT?

Randall provided the Standard-Examiner with an audio recording of the meeting. During the proceedings, Giboney said the company is not responsible for the bill. He pointed to an agreement from 1916 between Lynne and the original owner of Randall’s home.

The original owner, Henry L. Miller, wanted to build an addition to the home, which was built in 1914. The addition included the construction of a culvert that tied into the canal. The agreement stipulates that the home owner is responsible for maintaining and repairing the culvert. 

Giboney provided the document to Randall and his real estate agent, Sue Wilkerson, but they both interpret the document differently.

“I guess I could see that if the (leak) was causing a problem to my house, I might be responsible for any damages to my house,” Randall said. “But right now, my house is fine. The damage is to the street. I don’t own the street. It’s ridiculous to say I would have to pay to fix the street and to fix (Lynne’s) broken pipe.”

The Standard-Examiner called Giboney’s attorney Bill Morris for some clarification on the document, but through an office assistant, Morris said he couldn’t comment because it’s an ongoing legal matter.

During the Wednesday meeting, Stratford said the city views Lynne as the responsible party. 

“Where the system goes through city streets, we’re only going to look to one party (for billing),” Stratford said. “And that’s the party who owns the system.”

The city has a statute in place that allows them to fix the canal and bill Lynne if the company doesn’t do it in a timely manner. Anderson said he would soon draft and send a request letter to Lynne, initiating the process. Giboney, who has started a GoFundMe page to help pay for the project, said he’d let the city fix the problem, then forward the bill on to Randall.

Randall said he doesn’t plan on paying for it either. 

“I just don’t see how I could possibly be responsible,” he said. “It’s just seems like they’re grasping at straws. I’m just happy the city is expediting the process and moving to get it taken care of. That’s all I ever wanted.”

You can reach reporter Mitch Shaw at mishaw@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @mitchshaw23 or like him on Facebook at facebook.com/mitchshaw.standardexaminer/.

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