Costs to fix fuel spill may come out of city’s pocket

Mar. 21, 2014 @ 05:01 AM

The city of Sanford could potentially foot a nearly $80,000 repair bill after a subcontractor struck city hall’s underground fuel tank for its emergency generator earlier this month.    

Sanford City Council unanimously voted to move $79,250 from its fund balance to the public building department for costs related to a diesel fuel spill at city hall during its meeting Tuesday. The city’s insurance does not cover the event, said Sanford Attorney Susan Patterson, because there are exclusions for underground utilities.

The city contracted with Windstream Communications to connect the city’s 911 center to Lee County’s system, said City Manager Hal Hegwer. Windstream in turn contracted with Mooresville-based Utilipath for some of the work. The backup emergency center would allow the city to continue 911 operations in the event its system went down, Hegwer said.

Utilipath workers were digging on city property for the backup 911 call center when it pierced the 3,000 gallon diesel fuel tank on March 5, he said. No one was injured, and nearby creeks were not contaminated, he added.

“Right now, we are having conversations with Windstream and the subcontractor,” Hegwer said Thursday. “We are pursuing [reimbursement], and we have had good communication with them at this point.”

The underground utility exclusion is not uncommon with insurance policies, he said.

“We could have that type of coverage, but it is very expensive,” Hegwer said.

Hegwer said he’s not sure if it will be necessary to involve the city’s attorney at this point, but the city would if need be.

City Hall, located at 225 E. Weatherspoon St., was closed for four days after the spill.