Residents frustrated by flooding face criminal charges
Lappegards looking at a heavy fine for alleged damage to city property in Jefferson
July 18, 2013
Mark Lappegard stands next to the pond that has formed in his yard as a result of the new West Mahlon Street that was put in as part of the overpass project in Jefferson. Allegedly the proper tiling to drain his yard was not put in place during the initial construction, and Lappegard says that will need to be fixed.
Since last November when construction finished on the new railway overpass on Iowa Highway 4, Mark and Stacy Lappegard have noticed something unusual in their backyard.
Their lot on North Wilson Street was flooding. In the decades the Lappegards have lived there, nothing like it had ever happened.
The area used to be completely flat - a plain stretching two square blocks - before a nearby road was built to connect businesses near the new overpass.
Now their backyard is a pit that fills with water in the slightest rain, they said. Their basement is constantly in danger of flooding.
"Our sump-pump runs continuously now," said Mark Lappegard, 43.
More a swamp than a lake, the water deposit - the alleged result of a mistake made in the construction of West Mahlon Street - covered nearly a third of the Lappegards' property at its worst.
Several other homes and businesses around the area have also had flooding problems, including Joe Wanningar, of Joe's Body & Paint, and Hastings Funeral Home and Monuments.
Curt Hastings said they had several inches of water in their basement, something that hasn't happened in multiple decades of living there. Wanningar had flooding similar to the Lappegards' in a lot adjacent to his business.
Hastings said that he has spoken to city officials and has not seen any action taken so far.
After fruitlessly trying to contact the city to have the problem addressed and fixed, the Lappegards said they were angry with the situation and decided to vent their frustrations on May 30 when Mark and Stacy, along with a family friend, Greg Hoover, allegedly got in their trucks and a sport utility vehicle and tore through the wet mess in the backyard, spinning tires and flinging mud.
It wasn't until the city council meeting on June 25 that city leaders admitted a mistake in the construction.
"They did forget to put a tile in to drain that piece of property," said Mike Wright, the city's code enforcement officer, whom the Lappegards had complained to about the flooding. "It will be put in."
But before the admission, officers charged the Lappegards and Hoover with criminal mischief for their backyard drives through the mud.
Police records show that the Lappegards had intended to keep the damage confined to their own property but that they strayed too far and drove on some city land as well.
City Administrator Mike Palmer estimated the damage at $3,000, according to a police report.
Stacy Lappegard said "if the city wants to complain about the damage that she would start complaining about all the issues she was having with the city," the report said.
Mark Lappegard said they will fight the charges. Greene County Attorney Nicola Martino has said he does not plan to dismiss the charges.
It's unclear how soon the flooding issue might be fixed. Gabe Nelson, a project manager for Snyder and Associates, the firm that designed the project, said they were contacted in the past month about the problem. He said the firm has not committed to taking any action but is in the process of assessing the problem.
"We're waiting to hear back from the city on what the next step is from here," Nelson said.
The Iowa Department of Transportation is having a meeting on July 25 at 10 a.m. with an engineer and affected parties to discuss the problems.
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