The Salvation Army is seeking nearly $12,000 in damages from Olympia after the city mistakenly claimed there was a broken sewer pipe on the charity’s property.
The nonprofit organization filed the lawsuit July 9 in Thurston County Superior Court.
In March 2014, city crews discovered a sinkhole at Fifth Avenue and Plum Street. A contractor hired by the city determined that a broken sewer connection known as a lateral was causing the sinkhole.
The city then notified The Salvation Army, under the assumption that the broken pipe was located on the charity’s property at 824 Fifth Ave. SE. Property owners are responsible for such repairs, according to Olympia Municipal Code.
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Initially, the city estimated the particular pipe was located at the curb line near the northeast corner of Fifth and Plum, according to documents. This conclusion was based on a video inspection by the city’s hired contractor, Econovac.
“We didn’t know where the lateral goes, but since it was heading toward the Salvation Army, we directed them to fix it,” city engineer Diane Utter wrote in a summary of events obtained by The Olympian through a public records request.
The Salvation Army hired contractor FloHawks to repair the break. However, the contractor “spent an entire day digging where the city instructed, but no sewer pipe was found,” according to the lawsuit.
Econovac eventually found that the broken pipe in question “appeared to be at the far west edge of the excavation” done by FloHawks. Tests at the scene confirmed the broken pipe was not connected to The Salvation Army, according to documents.
As a result, the city completed the remaining repairs at its own expense, starting in May 2014. The work included restoration of the curb and gutter as well as a section of sidewalk that had been dug up by The Salvation Army’s contractor.
The Salvation Army paid FloHawks $11,642.84 to avoid being sent to collections and now wants to recoup the money. The lawsuit alleges that “the city refused to pay the bill for the work that was undertaken as a result of the city’s mistake.”
A city spokesperson told The Olympian that the case is under review. The Salvation Army did not return requests for comment.