Cara Radonich remembers the night of the storm.

Her daughter called and said that thunderstorm and heavy rain that moved through Middletown on May 3 had flooded their basement, with only the top two steps visible.

Radonich thought she must have misheard, that the bottom two steps were covered.

But when Radonich got home, only the top two steps could be seen, an oil tank and a water heater floating in 4 feet of water.

There had been storms heavier than this one since they’ve lived in the house, without ever having water in the basement, Radonich said.

And it wasn’t just her home. Several of her neighbors on Middletown’s West Main Street also had water.

The homeowners believe they know who, or at least what, was responsible for the flooding and damage to their homes.

West Main Street in Middletown is part of the town’s ongoing Streetscape work, a nearly $18 million State Highway Administration project that includes road improvements, resurfacing, curb and gutter improvements, and stormwater management work that began in the fall of 2016.

Earlier on the day of the storm, workers had been replacing a culvert nearby, Geiger said, and a drain that had been put in collapsed and blocked a channel that would have let water escape.

“It looked, honestly, like a river was flowing down the street here,” Ryan Kline said, motioning outside from his living room.

Ryan and Whitney Kline were watching a movie during the storm when they looked outside and saw the water flowing down West Main Street.

The Klines had about 2½ feet of water in their basement, and had to have the fire company come and pump it out.

Their neighbors Annalisa and Roger Geiger had four sump pumps running to get the water out of their basement.

The flooding left their home’s foundation cracked in three spots, Annalisa Geiger said.

Since the storm, the residents’ efforts to get compensation for the damage to their homes have taken them through a frustrating maze of bureaucracy and red tape.

In May, the State Highway Administration directed the project’s contractor, Milani Construction, to “immediately address citizen complaints and begin necessary remediation of properties affected by flooding,” which it said was part of the contract that the company had signed.

But Milani and its insurer, Erie Insurance, have argued that SHA and the subcontractor did the actual work.

In June, Erie informed Radonich that its investigation “did not reveal any negligent action on the part of Milani Construction LLC that resulted in the water intrusion.”

The Insurance Division of State Treasurer Nancy Kopp’s office is conducting a review of the situation, and could only confirm to The News-Post on Thursday that it has open claims in the case.

On Friday, Erie Insurance spokeswoman Raychel Adiutori replied that “At Erie Insurance our customers’ privacy is important. Due to privacy laws we cannot disclose any information on this particular claim or situation.”

SHA spokesman Charlie Gischlar said in an emailed statement Friday that “This issue is being investigated and MDOT SHA is working with all pertinent stakeholders.”

Milani Construction did not return a request for comment Friday.

Meanwhile, the homeowners face both financial and psychological strain.

A storm restoration crew that came out after the first storm cost Radonich $3,500, which had to be paid out of pocket.

Another storm on May 30 left about a foot of water in her basement, and damaged the water heater that they’d bought after the first storm.

Mold has been a problem for the Klines, aggravating their son’s asthma, and they’ve paid $2,500 to have it removed.

They need a new boiler for heat before winter, and they’ve looked into pulling from their retirement or taking out home equity loans to pay the costs of the damage.

Geiger said she checks the basement every other hour any time it rains.

Ryan Kline said the ongoing search for a resolution has been frustrating and exhausting.

“Every time, it’s like we’re going back to square one,” he said.

Follow Ryan Marshall on Twitter: @RMarshallFNP.

Ryan Marshall is the transportation and growth and development reporter for the News-Post. He can be reached at rmarshall@newspost.com.

(15) comments

DickD

Middletown has had some bad storms, same as the rest of Frederick County. The homes in question are in an area still not compete after almost three years. Current plans call for completion around November, weather permitting. But it is not just rain, South Mountain Auto Repair lost power for at least two weeks, possibly longer. They were able to continue work by renting a generator for $500/day. They can run off the generator okay, but anytime they hook back up to the grid power all of their fuses blow. Now that was a couple of weeks ago, maybe it is okay now.



The homes in question are not far from South Auto Repair. They are some of the oldest homes in town and their basements are all completely underground. From what is said here, it does sound like the contractor caused the flooding, especially if they were installing a new drain.

KellyAlzan

In the mean time, the state needs to pay for damAges, it’s their project. And the state can work out all the other stuff with their contractors after the fact. I know an Erie insurance adjuster for the Frederick county area, he is unethical and a stoner

KellyAlzan

I would also go after the engineer

mrnatural1

Of course those that stand to lose financially will try to weasel out of it.



I wonder what the burden of proof is in cases like this? While it may not be possible to prove the primary cause of the flooding "beyond a reasonable doubt", there was mention of culvert and drain work that could be investigated.



Also, while it may be circumstantial, one could look at historical meteorological data to support the claims that it has rained harder in the past and yet there was no flooding. Of course, there are other factors, like snow cover, ground saturation, etc. Still, it sounds like the residents may have a solid claim.

Boyce Rensberger

Question for the copy desk: Why heat hot water?

bosco

👍

mrnatural1

[thumbup]

KellyAlzan

Boyce - they won’t understand your question!!

bosco

The boiler needs TO BE replaced, not needs replaced.



Note for the FNP editors: Spill chick don't ketch ever thin!

Crusty Frederick Man 64

There is no reason that boiler needs to be replaced because it was under water only the electrical components would need to be replaced. Looks to me like someone is trying to get a insurance company to foot the bill for a new boiler.

mrnatural1

I saw that too bosco.



Dropping the "to be" seems *to be* a regional thing: "needs repaired", "needs painted", etc.

bosco

Me and Bubba actually, like, you know, um, literally think that it's beyond like regional, absolutely, you know?

mrnatural1

That comment was Xtreme bosco! Totally epic!

desii

I don't know about the Streetscape leading to the flooding, but I certainly wouldn't rule it out. What is the history of MIddletown Flooding? I would think its not been that much of a concern. But now that they have closed or re-routed the drainage while they are doing construction, the likelihood has increased...but "they" aren't responsible...of course. (Sorry, I didn't read the entire article, if that info happens to be in it).

Jefferson has been under the same Streetscap-ing since last fall. During the fall, they were able to get the area from just below the Post Office to just before Old Middletown Road torn up, run new piping for runoff, install new curbs and sidewalks, sod areas between curbs and sidewalks...That was last fall...I'm pretty sure that didn't extend into this spring. Since then...they have done no paving even though curbs and sidewalks and drainage piping has been installed up to at least Middletown Valley Bank. Most days this summer they are now where to be found, or maybe a skeleton crew...The certainly are in not hurry to complete the project. Others have built complete bridges quicker. I feel like they are alternating between Middletown and Jefferson and Jefferson is not getting any kind of priority. Lately, a little more is seemingly getting done...



I'm guessing there is not clause in the contract as far as timely service goes...or they are ahead of schedule and no one is complaining. Squeaky wheel gets the grease...and Jefferson just must not be rusty enough...yet.

wran

I looked up the Jefferson project on the State Highway Administration and found it. I sent a comment that the project was taking far too long. I also complained about the huge pot holes and bumps they left in the road that were terrible. I told them there was a huge hole in front of Jefferson Archery. A couple of days later they repaired the hole. The SHA engineer lady for the project emailed me that the project is going well, and is on schedule. I replied that the schedule is too long and that sometimes days go by with no work at all. I think the work is supposed to extend all the way to Old Holter Rd. At the rate they have been going this project will still be ongoing 3 years from now. I suspect the contractor has several jobs going at once and splits its resources between jobs. If the project is on schedule, the schedule is too long. I have seen projects like this completed in a fraction of the time this one is taking. Everything I have said here also applies to the Middletown project. I drive through there every Sunday, and I just can see any progress.

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