KENWOOD — Two Minneapolis neighborhoods along the proposed Southwest Light Rail Transit route want the Metropolitan Council to take responsibility if homes are damaged during construction of the nearly $1.7-billion transit project.
At its Jan. 5 meeting, the Kenwood Isles Area Association passed a resolution calling on Met Council to “put clear and reasonable processes in place to resolve damage disputes and fairly compensate owners who experience damage as a result of Metropolitan Council projects.” The Cedar-Isles-Dean Neighborhood Association passed a similar resolution in December.
The resolutions were inspired by the experience of a group of Cedar-Isles-Dean residents who claim their homes were damaged during a two-year Met Council sewer replacement project. One of the homeowners, Gary Lange, told the KIAA board he grew concerned when he learned the contractor that performed with sewer work, Lametti & Sons, also reviewed his damage claim, which was denied.
“We had no problem with the idea that the contractor has to be responsible for their work, but the contractor shouldn’t be responsible for actually processing the claims against their work,” Lange said.
At the urging of Met Council, Lange and other nearby homeowners allowed a pre-construction survey of their properties that involved documenting the structures in photos and video. But he said that evidence appeared to be ignored when 10 or more homeowners later claimed vibrations during construction cracked driveways and foundations and caused other damage.
They were told seismographic readings collected during the sewer project showed vibrations never exceeded a level that could have caused the damage.
Sensing a conflict of interest for the contractor, Lange appealed to state Sen. Scott Dibble. Met Council later hired an independent evaluator to reopen and examine the homeowners’ property damage claims.
“I think my experience, unfortunately, may have some bearing on how Met Council deals with the light rail project,” Lange said.
Asked to respond, Met Council spokesperson Laura Baenen provided the following statement: “Although our program for Southwest LRT is not yet finalized, we want property owners to know it is standard practice for large public infrastructure projects to require the contractor or subcontractor to provide insurance that would respond to claims of damage caused by the construction activities.”