JEFFERSONVILLE — For the fourth time since opening in late 2017, residents from the M. Fine senior community on Spring Street have been affected by flooding inside the building.
Residents from all 18 lower-floor units were evacuated from the building Tuesday afternoon, when heavy rains pushed water through the windows and back door. While several of the residents were able to return Wednesday, others are still in limbo in local hotels.
"It is very frustrating," Resident Marcella Feign, 66, said. "You're uprooted, you're thrown in a hotel late last night, we've been wading in water ..."
This wasn't the first time Feign's had to leave her place — and lose much of her belongings and family memories — since she moved in last March. In September, she was one of the lower-level residents in the same predicament, although that flood, she said, was worse.
"There's a lot of us in here that are older than me, some a little younger," she said. "We said 'if this happens again, we're out of here.' I just can't keep losing stuff. I lost so much in the last one, it's just not worth it to have to keep coming back and cleaning it up."
James Bosley, president and CEO of New Hope Services, Inc., said New Hope is paying for the residents to stay in hotels, but also looking at ways to possibly get those who remain out of their homes placed in other developments, he said. The Red Cross is providing food.
"We feel absolutely horrible that their lives are in turmoil again," he said. "I don't want them to have to stay in a hotel. That's why we're trying to get them into apartments so they're not in that position ... of not having their own furniture, they can fix their own meals."
He wasn't certain of the timeline of these potential placements Wednesday afternoon.
As the residents struggle to keep their heads above water through the frequent moves, the developer and city have gone head-to-head about where to lay blame for the recurrent flooding into the building.
Prior to Tuesday's event, M. Fine sustained three other floods where residents were displaced — July 31, Aug. 20 and Sept. 8, which is the one Feign said had affected her the most.
On May 3, New Hope and the apartment filed a civil tort claim against the city of Jeffersonville requesting damages and attorney fees for the flooding.
The document states that after the third flood, New Hope hired professional engineer and surveyor Harold Hart, who conducted an analysis of the flooding issues. His findings, according to the civil complaint, pointed to a nearby storm drainage system that had been compromised due to "large amounts of brush and dead vegetation as well as debris."
The complaint states that the city failed to inspect, clean or maintain the drainage area, which caused the flooding at M. Fine.
In a response, the city denies the engineer's report that the ditch was filled with vegetation and debris at the time of flooding, and denied allegations that it failed in properly inspecting, servicing or cleaning the drainage area.
"The lawsuit is pending but at the end of the day, the city is not liable for any damage to the building," said Jeffersonville city attorney Les Merkley, adding that it was unfortunate that the residents were caught up in it. "The developer made the decision to convert the basement into apartments for elderly people when he knew that it flooded."
When the building flooded in September, M. Fine allowed residents a month free of rent and had them take inventory of all they had lost in the flood, for later reparations. Some residents are concerned that they still have not seen any repayment for their lost items; Bosley said it will be coming.
"They've been told that we're in litigation with the city and that their claims will be satisfied once that litigation is complete," he said.