Retaining Wall Dispute


By Amy Fox
By Benjy Jeffords

MT. VERNON -- A Mt. Vernon couple is taking on city hall after a wall collapse raises safety concerns in their neighborhood. That retaining wall fell down six months ago, blocking a city sidewalk along a busy thoroughfare in Mt. Vernon. Residents say they now have to walk in the street to pass through that area. 

Sarah and Jon Henninger say they've been working with the city officials for more than a year. They insist the wall is city property and up to Mt. Vernon to maintain. But city leaders disagree.

Sarah Henninger has lived on North 42nd Street in Mt. Vernon for five years.  Every day she wakes up worried about what's out front.

"We're just kind of waiting for it to fall," said Sarah Henninger, homeowner.

In 2009, when Sarah and her husband, Jon, bought the house, the retaining wall came up in their homeowners inspection.

Henninger said, "We were told by the city engineer, at that point in time of the purchase, that that was not our responsibility and that the wall was on the city's property and their responsibility."

The Henninger's say they have documentation the retaining wall is in the city's right of way.  Over time, it started falling apart, and after multiple attempts to get the city to make repairs, the couple filed a formal complaint in June, 2013. 

"We really haven't gotten anywhere in the last year and half. I mean we haven't made any steps of progression forward," said Henninger.

Then, in February, part of the wall crumbled on the sidewalk. Contractor JD Keen says it wasn't properly installed.

"The geogrid had they actually put it in there, that would get laid in there like that and that would help hold that wall in place," said Keen.

The city put caution signs in the area following the collapse, but leaders insist the wall isn't city property. Six months later, the mess remains.

Neighbor Jared Lecrone said, "When you hit this part of the sidewalk, there is not another sidewalk on the other side, so you do have to go into the road a little bit."

"We don't want to see anyone get hurt," said Henninger. "We want it to be fixed. We want the city to do the right thing, and that's what we want."

In a statement, City Manager Ron Neibert said, "We are in the process of taking legal action."

While the case moves through the court, the Henningers aren't backing down. They hope the new sign posted in the front yard draws more attention to the problem.

The two sides are next scheduled to meet on October 21st.


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