Discussion of cleaning up a mess left by a sewer backup at a Doolittle resident's home led to a heated exchange among another town resident, an alderman and the mayor.
At the June 10 Doolittle Board of Aldermen meeting, Mayor Paul Smith gave an update to the board and resident Jeff Caquelin about where the city stands on paying for the cost to repair damages caused by a sewer backup at Caquelin’s home. The backup occurred May 3.
The damage from the sewer backup was caused by a Doolittle city employee who installed it, the mayor said.
At the board’s May 13 meeting, aldermen approved covering the cost to repair damages, which amount to roughly $9,388.
The City of Doolittle filed a claim with its liability insurance provider, MOPERM (Missouri Public Entity Risk Management Fund), and Smith said June 10, that at first glance, the claim was denied.
After Smith consulted with the city attorney, he said the reason it was denied is that “cities enjoy sovereign immunity, a legal device that makes cities not necessary liable for damages.”
Smith said the city has since filed documentation that showed that the damage was caused by a person.
Currently, the city attorney is negotiating with MOPERM and Smith said the last he has heard is that MOPERM will pay for half of the $9,388, but that could change.
Smith assured Caquelin that he will still be paid. “You’re covered,” the mayor said, adding that he appreciates Caquelin’s patience.
During this discussion, Doolittle resident Earl Link, who attended the meeting, brought up a court ruling regarding a metropolitan St. Louis sewer district that stated that the city had immunity on sewer projects unless the problem was manmade and if that is the case, the city had to pay.
“That’s where our attorney said we are,” Smith said. “We jumped the gun by assuming responsibility.”
Smith said the city attorney did not feel the board should have approved paying for the damages without consulting him or MOPERM first.
However, before Link could get to his point, Alderman Ron Bramlett said, “We don’t live in St. Louis. It’s like we don’t live in Kansas City.”
Bramlett was referring to another issue raised at the June 10 board meeting — whether Alderwoman Sherry Pierce is a resident of Doolittle.
When Smith provided a document that he felt defines residency and proves that Pierce is a resident of Doolittle, Link and other residents said the document is a Kansas City Police Department policy that talks about residency requirements for police there, not board members in Doolittle.
Page 2 of 2 - When Bramlett interrupted Link, Link said he was addressing the mayor, not Bramlett.
Smith asked the two men to settle down.
Bramlett then said, “If he (Link) wants to be a big mouth, I can be too.”
Link replied, “You’re big enough, buddy.”
At this point Smith yelled, “Enough, guys! Knock it off! Both of you.”
Smith apologized for his outburst later in the meeting.
After the exchange, there was some discussion as to whether to wait on receiving payment from MOPERM before the city pays Caquelin’s bill for carpet cleaning.
The board approved paying the bill by a vote of 4-1 to the cleaning company, SERVPRO, before getting the money from the city’s liability insurance company. Board members Zelma Smith, Roy Stevenson, Billy Martin and Brad Hilton voted yes, but Bramlett voted no.