Durham restaurant owner fights city over drainage

Nana's restaurant in Durham

August 15, 2012 3:30:46 PM PDT
A Durham restaurant is a hotspot with residents, but also a trouble spot when it rains.

The drainage pipe under Nana's restaurant needs to be replaced and the culvert needs repairs. When Durham sees heavy rains, the restaurant ends up flooded. Some city leaders say the site is private property and the price tag for the repairs is too steep.

Raging flood waters ripped through the restaurant last year, and the owner said he is afraid of the culvert that is in bad shape.

"They're going to have to fix University Drive. Whether it happens now or two years, five years, ten years, but it's going to collapse," restaurant owner Scott Howell said.

The price tag on a replacement drainage pipe under Nana's is $1 million and rising. The steep price tag has city leaders rethinking their plans to pay for it.

"We have to look at it from a taxpayer's point of view too. $1 million is a hell of a lot of money for a pipe," said Durham city councilman Eugene Brown.

Howell admits that his restaurant is private property and his responsibility, but he blames built-up debris in the creek under Nana's restaurant for the costly flood damage he has already paid for.

"That's $130,000 that I spent and the city spent nothing. Why are we talking about who's spending money when they haven't spent anything?" said Howell.

Howell said his repairs will not matter if the city does not fix the culvert across the street.

"The culvert and University Drive are collapsing right here. We can all stand here and look at it. It's not complicated," said Howell.

But from the city's perspective, it is. NC DOT maintains the road and has already rejected a city proposal to repair it. The state's requirements have increased costs for the project.

"They basically want us to dig a hole and build a Taj Mahal there in the bottom of it for a holding tank and that's going to cost us at least a quarter of a million dollars more," Brown said.

The fight over flood waters and the rising price to repair it has some city leaders calling for Howell to move his restaurant. Howell said even if he is a one-man island, he won't go.

NC DOT told ABC11 the road is safe for now and there is no deadline to fix the culvert.

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