By Ed Watkins – Senior Staff Writer
The City of Omaha is suing the University of Nebraska Board of regents for repair costs from a waterline that broke spring 2009.
The repairs were necessary when, in March 2009, a waterline servicing UNO broke. It damaged Dodge Street severely enough to shut it down for one day. The street gradually re-opened to one-lane traffic for the following three days.
The initial reconstruction proved to be a temporary fix. Many Omaha drivers experienced bumps along the surface as the foundation under the road began to settle.
A total of $336,000 was spent making the repairs, with $23,000 for short-term repairs and an additional $313,000 for a complete resurfacing during the summer of 2009.
The city registered both claims with the State Claims Board, which were subsequently denied and lead to the lawsuit.
Chancellor to the Nebraska Department of Administrative Affairs Joel Pedersen wrote a letter recommending the denial of the claims.
He stated that Omaha “could not establish the condition of the road, its substructure or traffic on the road itself were not the actual or incident cause of the break in the water line.”
Prior to the the lawsuit, university officials attempted to meet with city officials to discuss the incident.
“The university repeatedly made efforts to talk to the City of Omaha,” said UNO Vice Chancellor Bill Conley. “Chancellor Christensen and I met with three members of the city council and we requested a meeting with the mayor.”
Several requests were made, but the meeting never occurred.
“At the end of the day, I don’t know what those discussions might have done,” Conley said. “But certainly our effort from the university standpoint was to try to discuss this matter and to make sure all the parties understood what was happening and what our arguments were about and why we believe the university is not responsible for repairing highway roads or streets.”
Conley said there is no good way to tell whether a waterline is going to break.
“I think the general thought is that if a waterline is not having problems, you don’t necessarily dig it up to replace it,” he said.