Durham official: Flooding caused by culvert is not a 'city liability'

Posted May 28, 2011 2:58 p.m. EDT
Updated May 28, 2011 11:08 p.m. EDT

— The city of Durham is still debating whether it will fix a backed-up storm drain that has caused flooding at businesses on University Drive twice in two weeks.

Employees at Nana's Restaurant on University Drive said they had to leave the restaurant Friday because of flooding. Authorities said there was up to 8 inches of water inside the adjacent Rockwood Building. 

Scott Howell, who owns both buildings, said Friday that it was the worst flooding he has ever seen in the area. He said he is concerned that part of the Rockwood Building will collapse because it is built on top of a culvert in a flood plain.

"I'm sympathetic to Mr. Howell," said Ted Vorhees, assistant city manager. "He's done a lot of good renovating those buildings, but there are risks when you renovate an old building... It's private property. It's not a city liability, (but) we're trying to come up with a solution."

Earlier this month, Howell said he has been trying to work out a solution with the city for over six years. In 2006, he said, he signed a contract with the city to fix the drainage problem and made an initial payment of more than $1,800, but the work has still not been started.

City officials have blamed the delay on pending permits from the North Carolina Department of Transportation. 

In an email to other city council members Saturday, Councilman Eugene Brown said the city "(has) to act."

"This does not cast the city or NCDOT in a good light," the email states. "We cannot allow this to become the poster child for governmental inaction and ineptitude."