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County, landowner can't solve dispute

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GREENFIELD — County commissioners wanted to help  a man whose home and rental property were flooded last December, but they couldn’t bring themselves to spend taxpayer money on what they say probably isn’t a public problem to begin with.

Commissioners on Tuesday listened to a lengthy plea from J.W. Blankenship, who owns a home and workshop at 1944 N. CR 600W. He asked the commissioners for $414,000 for damages to his property.

Blankenship says the construction of a new bridge is at fault, and while the discussion was certainly cordial, commissioners said ultimately government money shouldn’t be spent.

The site, on the southwest corner of CRs 200N and 600W, was flooded in December when Buck Creek and many streams throughout the county overflowed because of rain and melted snow.

Blankenship said three sides of his home were surrounded by water that day, and his workshop was covered in 45 inches of water.

The workshop is rented to a cabinet and countertop contractor, and Blankenship said the renter is not renewing his contract because of the damages. That’s income Blankenship won’t be making, he points out.

“I don’t want to weary you with this – I’m just asking for help,” Blankenship said.

He said a new bridge built at the site is at fault; the land had never flooded in the past dozen or so years, and there was probably a flaw in the engineering of the new bridge.

But commissioners said the land is marked as being in a floodway.

“I don’t want to seem insensitive, but the public has no responsibility to compensate for the damage because of the flood,” Commissioner Tom Stevens said.

Blankenship had met with commissioners individually about the issue in the last few weeks, but was asked to come to the meeting Tuesday so a decision could be made publicly.

“I’m not going to seek legal counsel,” Blankenship said. “I think you folks are honorable men, so I’ll leave that to you and your conscience.”

Commissioner Brad Armstrong said after the meeting that it’s hard to tell what exactly went wrong with the site. They had an engineer from United Consulting meet with Blankenship, but it’s hard to pinpoint whether the bridge had anything to do with the flooding.

Armstrong pointed out that Blankenship’s land is appraised at $285,600 and that the property owner was asking for more to rebuild his home and workshop. Blankenship declined further comment after the meeting.

Armstrong said while commissioners wished they could help, the bottom line is the land is in a floodway and could have flooded even if there wasn’t a new bridge in the area.

 “He’s very nice; we’ve all met with him several times,” Armstrong said. “He’s a nice guy, but at the end of the day I can’t in good conscience go and spend any taxpayer money. Even if we gave him $500 for inconvenience for the flood, how do I explain that? He had a house that was in a floodway that flooded.”

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