A last resort should not be reached

Living in a place like our community means enjoying a multitude of blessings, not the least of which is having the pleasure of electing our very own friends and neighbors to represent us in local government. In exchange for the honor of serving they promise to listen to our concerns and address them in an effective and timely manner.
Most of the time that’s exactly how it works: we go to our local officials with some problem or concern, they look into it, and then someone is tasked to take the appropriate action. It’s a system that we have become accustomed to seeing work relatively well.
But in the case of Dave Avenarius of Cunningham’s the system has apparently broken down. Four times last year the basement of his building on East High Street flooded with backed up sewage. According to Avenarius, the village failed to respond to his repeated calls for action, although the sewage was pumped out of the basement by village fire trucks on at least one occasion. He claims the damage caused by the flooding cost him more than $11,000, and he has sued the village to recover the money.
For his part, Avenarius seems to be a reluctant litigant. “I’ve lived here all my life, I love this place,” he told the board, and made it clear he was “uncomfortable” filing suit against the village. We can certainly empathize.

Mayor John Romano appears to be sympathetic as well, although in his position he must tread lightly in the face of a lawsuit which, if lost, or even contested at trial, would negatively impact the village finances. But we think it clear he wants the situation straightened out, and we can imagine it would take little encouragement from anyone to motivate him to look into what happened.
And that is the heart of the matter. We do not know, at this point, why this obvious problem was allowed to get so far out of hand. And given the early stage of the legal side of this matter we do not think it fair for us to comment too harshly until all the facts are in.
But clearly someone along the line made the decision to either ignore an obvious issue or choose to see it as Avenarius’ problem rather than the village’s. Common sense tells us someone should have realized there was an ongoing issue after the sewer backed up a second time. That it happened two more times–the last just two days after Christmas–seems to suggest someone in a responsible position dropped the ball.
We have little doubt Romano and the board will do what they can to get to the bottom of an obviously unacceptable situation. We have no idea at this early stage whether the suit has merit, but it takes no great leap of imagination to guess there is some fire beneath the smoke. Lifelong residents like Avenarius rarely bring suit against their friends and neighbors; when they do one can believe they have good reason. Most likely, as Avenarius said, that reason has more to do with frustration than anything else.
At this very early stage, and with so little of the full story in hand, we have no way of knowing what the ultimate truth of this story will be. It could easily turn out the problem was not the village’s responsibility. But if that was the case it was not communicated to Avenarius-if anything, village fire trucks pumping out his basement would have led him to quite a different conclusion regardless.
The one thing we do know is one of our own felt compelled to sue the very people he, and the rest of us, count on to solve problems like these. At the very least we know one of our own felt his voice was not being heard. For that he has taken legal action as a last resort. A last resort that should not be reached.


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