Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Sewage disaster on Warren St.; owner: Glens Falls should pay the damages

By Zander Frost, Chronicle Staff Writer

Premier Plus Tours owners Dawn Biddiscombe and Matthew Colucci purchased the former Adirondack Pediatrics office at 154 Warren Street (on the corner of Keenan Street) in September 2021 to use for apartments and their businesses’ offices.

But the mother and son duo say the $350,000 purchase has been mired by sewage disaster. Ms. Biddiscombe feels Glens Falls has left them high and dry.

She told The Chronicle that several times in a three month span, sewage poured directly into the building.

“The damage was extensive and bills are over $100,000,” only $37,000 of which was covered by her insurance, she added.

Says basement filled with more than six inches of sewage. Photo provided

She said the basement was filled with more than six inches of sewage, “including tampons, plastic, urine, feces.”

She said the sewer damage has also triggered a need for an asbestos removal, that would not have been a safety issue before this event.

Both Premier Plus Tours businesses used offices and bathrooms in the now gutted basement. Now, the travel agency operates out of one room on the first floor, without a bathroom, she said.

“My employees and myself have to go to establishments such as Stewart’s to use their rest room,” she added.

She said without help from the City of Glens Falls’ insurance, cleanup bills are mounting and she can’t redo the gutted basement or remove the sewage smell.

Ms. Biddiscombe did laud, in a February e-mail, the Glens Falls DPW, who she said “has been and is currently amazing at assisting with this problem.”

But she has taken issue with the Mayor’s office and the city’s insurer, Wright Insurance. She says they’ve been unresponsive to her situation.

She said a representative for Wright Insurance said they would “review and get docs to me by end of last week but did not” for the second straight week.

She also said she received a water and sewer bill from the city “even though we had no bathroom.”

She said the city “told me to pay the bill and include it in the claim — the same claim that has been ignored for months now.” She also said after an initial conversation with Mayor Bill Collins, several recent e-mails were not answered.

Mayor Bill Collins’ view

The Chronicle spoke with Mayor Collins Monday. He said the city has been responsive to Ms. Biddiscombe. “Our DPW has been over there several times to help correct the issue,” he said.

“She actually was pretty complimentary of the response of our DPW and their help.”

The mayor said the damage reimbursement issue is beyond his control.

“It’s not like I can cut her a check, right? This is in the hands of the insurance companies.”

The mayor said, “I know we’ve helped her through the clerk’s office to file a claim. And I believe that claim is being denied.”

Mayor Collins said Jack Bieniek, of Gallagher Insurance (which acquired Cool Insuring Agency in 2020), the city’s broker, has “been following up for us, making sure that the claim is processed properly and timely.

“But timely compared to her paying bills and getting stuff done, that’s where her frustration is and I don’t blame her for it. I appreciate it,” Mr. Collins said.

The Chronicle spoke with Mr. Bieniek subsequently. He said the claim “has not been denied.”

“It’s in process and we’re expecting to have an evaluation and determination for her by this Friday,” he added.

Mayor Collins said of the city’s responsibility, “If that [sewer] break is from your home to what they call the right of way, then you have to pay for that repair.”

He said, “If you’re having problem with a blockage” Glens Falls DPW will help.

Ms. Biddiscombe said, “Instead of the City investing all of their grant money into parking garages and South Street, how about updating and fixing their outdated sewer system so that small businesses owners like us do not have to ever endure this tragedy.”

“Why are [they not] taking care of something that is their responsibility – instead we are being ignored.”

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