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Glendale disaster prompts claim for $955K in damages

A Glendale property owner says Island County owes him almost a million dollars for damage caused by last spring’s flooding of Glendale Creek south of Clinton.

Jason Marr of Mercer Island, who with his mother Ruby Marr of Seattle owns the historic and now severely damaged Glendale Hotel and old Ford Garage, filed the claim totaling $955,650, saying the county was at fault in the incident.

The claim, filed April 26 with Island County Risk Manager Betty Kemp, is a necessary first step in the process leading to a possible lawsuit if the county doesn’t settle.

Island County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson, who represents the South End, said Thursday that because of the size of the claim, it will be handled by the county’s insurance carriers.

“It was terribly unfortunate,” she said of the flood, “but the county suffered damages as well.”

The hotel, garage and eight homes were damaged in the early morning of April 3, 2009, when rising water in the creek wiped out a 20-foot-deep section of Glendale Road about 200 feet wide, and the culvert under it, and sent a wall of water, mud and debris rushing a mile down the canyon into the Glendale beach community.

Residents of the tiny residential area had been evacuated earlier, and there were no injuries reported.

But damage to public and private property was estimated at more than $5 million, with personal property losses totaling another $70,000. Significant damage to the salmon-spawning stream also occurred.

In his claim, Marr says the county’s “negligence” in not cleaning and maintaining the culvert under Glendale Road and another nearby “artificial chokepoint” resulted in the flood, which was “suddenly and violently released in a foreseeable manner.”

“The several million gallons of water that Island County negligently allowed to accumulate behind the artificial chokepoints ... caused massive flooding and damage to no fewer than four buildings and/or structures owned by the Claimant,” the claim reads.

Besides heavy damage to the hotel and garage, which were directly in the path of mud, tumbling trees and other debris, the flood also demolished a fishing cabin and damaged the old Clinton dock on the shore of Possession Sound, Marr said.

The garage, built in the early 1920s, was the home of the first auto dealership on Whidbey Island.

“Each and every one of these buildings has been entirely destroyed (the fishing cabin), damaged beyond repair (the Old Ford Garage), or damaged to a certain extent that it is not currently habitable or usable (the dock and the Glendale Hotel),” the claim says.

“The properties appear to be total losses,” the claim adds.

The Marrs have owned the properties since the 1980s. The hotel had been for sale at the time of the flood.

Marr couldn’t be reached Thursday for comment on the claim.

Heavy rains and the collapse of a section of a beaver dam on upper Glendale Creek have been blamed for triggering the flood.

For more than a day, water backed up behind Glendale Road, chipping away at the roadway and defying attempts by county crews to pipe it up and over the pavement.

The road and culvert finally gave way about 2 a.m. on April 3, creating a flash flood.

Officials in the county’s public works department declined to talk about the damage claim. The department has been the focal point of critics, who say it installed an inadequate culvert under the road after a similar flood in 1996, then failed to maintain it.

Since the flood, the county has conducted a number of community meetings in Clinton to determine what to do next in Glendale.

Recommendations will be made to county commissioners next week, Randy Brackett, assistant county engineer, said Thursday.

As for Marr’s damage claim: “I don’t think we want to comment on that,” Brackett said.

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