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Call For Action: Drivers on the hook for pothole troubles

By Adam Schrager, aschrager@wisctv.com
Published On: Apr 09 2013 04:37:44 PM CDT
Updated On: Apr 06 2013 12:37:42 PM CDT
pothole beloit

Photo courtesy of Mike Nemetz

BELOIT, Wis. -

Wisconsin drivers will no longer be reimbursed for pothole repairs because of a new Wisconsin law protecting cities and counties from liability.

Beloit resident Mike Nemetz contacted Call For Action to see if his hometown was responsible for reimbursing him the $150 he needed to replace a tire flattened by a pothole. Due to a state statute that went into effect last year, he can file a claim with the city, but it is not obligated to compensate him for his loss.

"You know if I did $150 damage to city property, say I bounced up onto the curb and took out one of their signs, I'd be liable for that, so why aren't they held liable for the damage they did to my vehicle," Nemetz said in regard to the incident that took place on Shore Drive late last month. His reimbursement claim was officially denied last week by the city.

The accident took place on a Saturday and Nemetz said Beloit Public Works fixed the potholes first thing on Monday morning.

"They've done a good job coming out here patching things up," he said. However, he's still out his $150 for a new tire.

The new law, passed in the 2011 legislative session before going into effect last year, closed what Wisconsin's cities and counties had called a "loophole" in state law that had existed since 1849 and cost municipalities hundreds of thousands of dollars every decade. Before the passage of Senate Bill 125, cities and counties could be held liable for damages up to $50,000 "by reason of the insufficiency of want of repairs of any highway that any town, city or village is bound to keep in repair."

"If we hear about a pothole, we get it that day or the next work day at the latest," said Beloit Public Works Supervisor Bruce Slagoski. "It's not left out there for long."

Slagoski said the department filled 1,692 potholes in March and 1,739 potholes in February, an average of more than two hundred per work day. April tends to be among the busiest months for pothole repair in the city. While he empathizes with drivers who encounter pot holes on their daily commute, he says the city will refill the holes, if not their wallets.

"They can fill out a claim with the city but state statute says we're not really liable," he said. "Call your insurance company. They'll be able to help you out more than we can."

Nemetz decided to pay for the new tire out of pocket. While Call For Action was not able to get him his money back, he's grateful for the opportunity to warn other Wisconsin drivers.

"I would like everyone to know that cities are saying they're not responsible for your vehicle," he said. "(It's) up to you to make sure you maneuver around the potholes and you don't hit them because the city's not going to pay for (whatever damages you incur)."

If you have a consumer issue you'd like the Call For Action volunteers to help you with, you can speak with someone in person every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. You can also file a complaint any time of the day on our website.

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