Before you go to city hall, know the odds

Daniel MacEachern
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Don’t count on a payout from St. John’s if a pothole wrecks your ride

Your odds of winning a prize in the Health Care Foundation’s dream home lottery: One in 20. Your odds of successfully getting St. John’s to pay for your pothole-damaged car: One in 475.

City of St. John’s crews are dealing with more bad potholes this year. Already, between 2,000 and 2,500 have been patched, a city official says. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

According to figures from the city’s communications department, since 2003 — the first year of the city’s electronic claims management system — the city has received 950 claims related to potholes, and paid in just two instances.

“The policy on paying for damages related to potholes doesn’t indicate a specific period of time, but does state that the potholes must be addressed in a reasonable period of time, so each case must be evaluated on its own merits,” wrote Susan Bonnell, the city’s manager of marketing and communications.

And the city doesn’t pay damages for potholes if it can’t be proved the city knows about a particular pothole in the first place.

“The ultimate goal would be to respond to and remedy the pothole quickly, but if the pothole cannot be filled (due, for example, to wet weather) then the expectation is that the pothole be marked,” wrote Bonnell. “In the vast majority of cases claimants are either the first to hit the pothole, or the city is meeting the expectation to mark or fill the potholes in a reasonable time frame, which is why claims are denied. Lawsuits on pothole damage are extremely rare.”

It’s been a rough year for wheels and a busy year for the city’s pothole crews.

At Thursday’s meeting of the public works committee, the city’s roads manager, Phil Hiscock, said city crews have already filled in somewhere between 2,000 and 2,500 potholes. A typical year, according to Paul Mackey, the city’s deputy manager of public works, sees the city repairing about 3,500 potholes. Hiscock said there are four crews out at any given time filling holes, work that’s accelerating as the snow recedes.

“We’re (filling) a lot more than we would normally do. Granted, there are a lot more this year, too,” said Hiscock, who added this is the worst year for potholes he’s ever seen.

“In terms of numbers, we’re way up, way up this year.”

Hiscock said there are two methods crews can take in tackling potholes. One is to identify the worst potholes — Priority 1 — and fill those  first. The approach the city favours is to dispatch crews across the city to fill in as many potholes as possible in a given area.

“Say we had a list of 60 or 70, which is usually what we’re getting now, 60 to 70 every day,” he said. “Well, you have to go all over the city to pick off your Priority 1s, so your production rate just plummets. So you get a few done, but you don’t get them done en masse. We try to get them grouped together as much as possible, pick off the Priority 1s in the grouped area.”

Coun. Jonathan Galgay, chairman of the city’s public works committee, acknowledged payouts for pothole damage are rare, but said people should still file claims.

“The liability issue is up and down — you go in and you patch a pothole and a big truck goes over it and clears it out again, so there’s a whole gamut of issues in terms of the liability,” he said.

“But we do encourage people , if you do have a damaged vehicle or property as it relates to that, to go through the normal process of appeal.”

 Twitter: @TelegramDaniel

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Recent comments

  • Wasteof Time
    April 20, 2014 - 16:18

    You are wasting time out of your life you will never get back by complaining or taking a claim to City Hall over pothole damage or pretty much anything else you are looking for reimbursement. A few years back a snow plow cleaning our street beat the side window out of my car while parked in the driveway. The car was about 15 feet from the road and the plow operator was going so fast down a residential street he drove in the side glass into the back of the car covering my childs car seat and the back of the inside of the car with snow, ice, rocks and glass. I took pictures and brought the evidence to City Hall to get the cost of the window to be replaced to which I got a phone call from a very rude City Lawyer who informed me that the City wasn't responsible for the cost and quoted some legality "tort of nuisance" that covered the city. So all in all total waste of time and energy!

  • Tony Fowler
    April 19, 2014 - 10:30

    Time to stop filling up old potholes year after year and pave the roads properly.