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Leaks, mishaps cost city $578K in payouts

SANTA FE, N.M. — Over the past year, the city of Santa Fe has paid out $578,557 to settle 107 tort claims, lawsuits and threatened litigation – for sewage backups, water leaks, pothole-caused damage to cars and other mishaps.

According to city documents, the single largest payout was to resident Janie Chodosh, who got $142,843 in April after a water main leak flooded her home and caused extensive damage.

Chodosh’s claim was one of 14 settled by the city for problems linked to the Water Division. Most often, the issue was a water main break or leak. Altogether, the 14 claims totaled $176,817.

Santa Fe City Councilor Rebecca Wurzburger got $162 when a surge in her water line caused a sink faucet to blow off.

However, nearly half the settlement money dispersed by the city between mid-November 2012 to late October 2013 was compensation for damages caused by sewer line backups, an ongoing problem in Santa Fe.

The city made 15 payments totaling $267,161 for sewer-related damages. The amounts ranged from $411 to $67,872, with the average payment coming in at $17,811.

The most frequent reason for a city payout, encompassing nearly half the claims, involved automobile accidents. This year, city-owned vehicles hit objects ranging from other cars – both parked and moving – to walls, electrical lines, fences, mail boxes and a dumpster corral. A handful of claims involved city gates smacking into cars.

The largest auto-involved payout was $13,950 to Alyssa Maestas, whose car was hit by a Parks Division vehicle.

Santa Fe officials have said that insurance covers most claims against city government, though the city’s deductible varies depending on the type of grievance.

Other payments include:

  • The city gave $3,598 to Anne Oxenhandler to remedy damage caused to her computer during a police investigation. Two other residents, Martha Rodriguez and Joe Ferraro, got $1,144 and $4,266, respectively, for damage done to their property during police standoffs.
  • Three apartment complexes got small payouts after city garage trucks caused damage on their property: Talavera Apartments, Enclave at Santa Fe and Dos Santos Apartments. Other businesses and organizations who made similar claims included La Quinta Inn, First Baptist Church and DeVargas Center.
  • Goodwill Inc. got $5,301 after a hydraulic line leaked and damaged the pavement at its Cerrillos Road location.
  • TV station KRQE got $482 after a city garbage truck hit a reporter’s camera tripod.
  • Around a dozen claims were put in for windshield damage caused by rocks or other debris thrown up by city Weed Eaters.

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