Hospital claims Vineyard Road project caused problems at its property

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Pictured is a portion of the acreage involved with the Crossing Rivers Health claim and petition against the township of Bridgeport, Crawford County and others. The hospital maintains that since the 2016 Vineyard Road reconstruction project, surface waters have been diverted to the about 50 acres of its 105-acre campus, causing flooding, water trespass and damage. (Photo by Correne Martin)

Crawford County denies change in flow of water, Bridgeport township investigates before considering action

By Correne Martin

Crossing Rivers Health has provided a notice of claim and petition for relief to the Bridgeport Township and Crawford County government bodies and to Kramer Consulting Group, of Wauzeka. The hospital contends there was “unreasonable diversion of surface waters causing flooding, water trespass and damages to its property” as a result of “negligent planning, designing, engineering, construction, supervision and inspection” of an expansive Town Road Improvement Project (TRIP) for the reconstruction of Vineyard Road in summer of 2016.

Attorney for Crossing Rivers, Sara MacCarthy, Esq., of Hall, Render, Killian, Heath & Lyman, P.C., drafted the claim and petition. MacCarthy, Crossing Rivers administration and the Bridgeport Town Board discussed the issue at the July 11 town board meeting.

“We’re seeking global resolution. We’re not going to deny it’s a wet area, and we certainly don’t want to trespass on anybody else’s property,” MacCarthy said. “But we’ve reached out in April, October and November of 2017 and we stand ready and waiting. We’d like to have this resolved before the snow flies.”

In a June 20 article the Courier Press published, reporting on a county board meeting, Crawford County Highway Commissioner Dennis Pelock said Crossing Rivers’ claim is untrue and should not have been put forth. 

“The flow of water has not changed,” he said, noting the county has aerial photos showing the property entirely under water before the highway project began. 

The county board formally denied the claim in June. County attorney Mark Peterson explained that the county plans no further action unless the hospital files an action under Chapter 32.

The attorney for Bridgeport, with respect to this issue, Nicole Bacher, said the township has retained its own independent engineers to complete a thorough investigation of the petition and claim.

“I expect the town to take this issue up at its next meeting in August, assuming details of the investigation are in,” Bacher stated. “The next step would be to take some sort of action regarding the claim.”

The basis for the claim and petition, signed by Crossing Rivers Health Chief Executive Officer Bill Sexton, is that “the project resulted in the reconfiguration and alteration of the drainage and surface water flow in the area. Storm sewer and inlets were added to change the existing drainage pattern. Water from properties extending as far north and west as Seymour Drive and Sand Burr Lane, which formerly flowed to the north side of Vineyard Road, was redirected to the south side of the road onto [Crossing Rivers’] property.

“The former storm sewer system along Vineyard Road was a rural section, which allowed for natural infiltration of water. Post-project water, which formerly would have been absorbed, now collects in storm sewer pipes and is directed south of Vineyard at higher volumes with no infiltration.

“Additional alterations included the removal and replacement of a 30-inch culvert pipe, with a 16-foot by 4-foot box culvert (a 1,300 percent increase) with reinforced win-walls capturing and routing water in a southwestern direction to [Crossing Rivers’] property.

“Prior to the project, water directed to [the hospital’s] property discharged at a rate of 100 gallons per second for a 100-year rain event. After project completion, water will discharge at a rate of 6,657 gallons per second for a 100-year rain event. The redirected water formerly flowed to Bridgeport town supervisor Michael Steiner’s property north of Vineyard.”

MacCarthy noted in the claim that Supervisor Steiner participated in all town board discussions, voted on related motions and supervised components of the project. 

Also according to the claim and petition, “Upon the completion of the project, more than 400 acres of stormwater runoff inundated [Crossing Rivers’] property, leaving more than 50 acres of its 105-acre campus perpetually under water and rendering it unusable and unbuildable.”

The hospital and clinic opened at their current location in 2015 after nearly a decade of planning. Crossing Rivers states in the claim that it has future construction plans for the property, which are “now in jeopardy,” due to these issues. The hope with the claim and petition, according to MacCarthy, is that the town and county can, as quickly as possible, abate and remediate the water trespass on the property before further legal action is taken.

Crossing Rivers further alleges in its claim and petition that the town of Bridgeport engaged Travis Kramer, of Kramer Consulting Group, to prepare plans for the project, while his license as a land surveyor in Wisconsin “was either in limited, suspended or revoked status.” The claim states the Wisconsin Examining Board of Architects, Landscape Architects, Professional Engineers, Designers and Land Surveyors suspended Kramer’s license in November 2014, for misconduct. In March 2016, more than a month before he signed the project plans, an administrative law judge revoked Kramer’s license. 

According to MacCarthy, the plans were reviewed and approved by the Crawford County highway commissioner, H. James and Sons, of Fennimore, was awarded the contract and TEAM Engineering, of Loganville, managed and oversaw the project.

In the June 20 Courier article, Pelock also noted that the hospital pledged $100,000 to the town of Bridgeport regarding the Vineyard Road project but then failed to pay. He added that Crossing Rivers built a retention pond that doesn’t drain. He said they should have built a detention pond like Nathan Plaza did that drains into the city sewer system. Nathan Plaza contractors also built its land up higher before beginning construction. 

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