Man says township should pay for flood damage on his property

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – “This could happen to anybody,” Paul Madrazo said as he pointed to another damaged portion of his property in Susquehanna Township.

The problem is old, but to Madrazo, the emotions still feel new.

“Time and time again, all the work that we did would get washed away,” Madrazo said as he gestured toward his front yard.

For six years starting in 2009, Madrazo says his family dealt with consistent flooding, even during periods of moderate rain. He recorded these videos in 2015:

Madrazo fixed what he could, but some repairs went beyond his scope of expertise.

“It’s washed everything out here,” Madrazo said. “All these stairs are compromised.”

“The contractor told me they actually need to excavate on that side over there, reseal the foundation,” Madrazo added as he pointed to wet spots in the foundation of the house. “If we want to sell the house at some point, all of this damage needs to be disclosed.”

Some might call Madrazo’s situation a case of bad luck, but he believes it was a case of poor maintenance on the part of Susquehanna Township.

Stormwater struggle

Madrazo says the storm drains on his street were often clogged. The video he recorded shows water rushing over a drain near his house instead of flowing in.

Susquehanna Township’s website says the township is responsible for stormwater drain maintenance.

Instead of stopping at the curb, video shows the water rushing over it. Madrazo says the curb in front of his house was too short, saying a previous township manager told him it was the result of the township paving over the road without milling it down.

Madrazo says he asked if he could raise the curb, but Susquehanna Township said no.

After six years of back and forth, in 2015 township workers added storm drains and dug out some of the road to fix issues with the curb height. Madrazo says he sees township employees in his neighborhood clearing stormwater drains more often.

The flooding issues stopped, but Madrazo’s story is far from over.

The damage

“Well, the issue is that we’ve sustained significant damage,” Madrazo said. “And we’d like to be compensated for it.”

A landscaping company drew up a 43 thousand dollar estimate for repairs. Madrazo says that number represents the low end of costs. He says he wants Susquehanna Township to pay so others can avoid his hassle.

“I think this would maybe put towns on notice and say, ‘Hey, you got an issue, you need to deal with it,'” Madrazo said. “This could have all been avoided.”

Susquehanna Township has reimbursed Madrazo in the past for small amounts of flood damage. This time was different.

“We alerted them we were submitting a claim,” Madrazo said. “And before we could even send them the estimate, an attorney out of Philadelphia sent us a letter saying they’re not going to pay it.”

The township’s side of the story

ABC27 called Susquehanna Township’s manager, David Kratzer. He said he couldn’t speak publicly about ongoing legal issues. He did say, in general, township employees do clear stormwater drains on a regular basis.

ABC27 obtained activity logs for township employees, which are public records. They don’t show specific locations, but they do show that township employees consistently mark down clearing stormwater drains.

Township employees who did not want to be identified because they’re not authorized to speak about this issue publicly pointed out that Madrazo lives downhill and in the woods, where leaves fall and drains can clog quickly, even if someone is keeping up with clearing them.

In general, township, borough, and city leaders worry that paying someone like Madrazo will mean paying out lots of similar cases with tax dollars.

But Madrazo says he hopes this battle will help others protect their money, their rights, and their properties.

“They certainly want those taxes on time and we’re happy to pay them,” Madrazo said. “But we’re also, on the same token, we want the services that are due to us to be performed. So what’s a homeowner supposed to do?”

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