Mineral Wells Index, Mineral Wells, TX

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May 9, 2013

City Council says ‘no’ to motorist's claim

By CHRIS AGEE

Mineral Wells City Council members voted Tuesday to uphold the initial denial of a claim filed by a local resident whose car was damaged after striking an exposed manhole cover earlier this year.

The incident occurred when Alicia Francis was driving near the intersection of Alexander and Hood Road, according to City Manager Lance Howerton. Though the worksite was covered with gravel, the streets department had not yet patched the cut with asphalt. The Texas Municipal League Intergovernmental Risk Pool denied Francis' claim based on the opinion the City had no prior knowledge of the hazard.

She appeared before council twice to appeal the decision, initially providing a number of email correspondences from colleagues who confirmed they either saw or almost struck the manhole cover themselves.

When her claim was again denied by the TMLIRP, she addressed council during an April 16 meeting and explained city workers were near the scene and witnessed the incident. Before voting to revisit the issue at a later date, council members instructed staff to determine if the workers actually saw the incident.

"That was what was requested of staff at the last meeting so that is what has been provided," Howerton said Tuesday, presenting a letter from Public Works Director Bobby Baker indicating none of the members of the crew were aware of the condition of the manhole. The three workers also signed statements to the same effect.

"We need to go with what the insurance company said and deny the claim," said Councilwoman Tammy Underwood.

Councilman Rick Bennett, who previously recommended tabling the issue to further investigate the situation and expressed concern for Francis' circumstance, applauded Baker for his effort.

"We have the best city workers anywhere and I trust them implicitly," he said.

Council voted unanimously to affirm the TMLIRP's claim denial.

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