Woman refuses to leave home after flood

Sunday, June 14, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT
Eledia Stone holds up her mother's childhood bank and a box of Mark McGuire home run baseballs from a wheelbarrow of items salvaged from her shed. Behind the barbed-wire fence, debris from the flood can still be seen. Her property on Hinkson Creek Road flooded on April 30. Stone and her daughters are still cleaning out the property.

COLUMBIA — Eledia Stone’s land near Hinkson Creek in northeast Columbia has been in her family for generations.

Stone has lived there since 1964, when she returned to Missouri from California after her father's death. Given her Cherokee ties, she finds the place has special meaning to her because it was blessed as a Northern Cherokee Holy Site in 2007.


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In early May, however, the land and Stone’s mobile home sustained the worst flooding Stone has seen in her 45 years there. Storms dumped 4 inches of rain on the city, and Hinkson Creek spilled out of its banks and across Stone’s property.

Stone thinks the flooding was the result of construction on Hinkson Creek, downstream from her home, where Emery Sapp & Sons is being paid $6.7 million by the city to install new sewer lines and to build a bridge as part of an extension of Mexico Gravel Road. Stone and her family have complained to the city about the flooding, but neither the city nor Emery Sapp & Sons is taking responsibility.  

The creek water has stained Stone’s shed and forced her to sort many of her possessions into groups in the yard. Heirlooms passed down from her father are piled into a wheelbarrow. The cedar chips from her garden have been washed away, and parts of a wooden fence that used to surround the garden were pushed to the other side of the street. The insulation under the house must be torn out and redone, and mold is gathering after the water damage. Stone will also have to get rid of a ruined lawnmower.

In addition to her waterlogged possessions, Stone lost photo albums, her husband's death records and mementos from his funeral.

Stone said Emery Sapp & Sons inadvertently dammed Hinkson Creek when it dumped rock in the creek bed to facilitate the bridge construction. Stone's daughter Donna Spector said the family doesn’t think the contractor did it on purpose.

"We choose to believe they would not intentionally do that," Spector said as she surveyed damage to the property.

"You can't force anyone to take responsibility for something they have no intention of taking responsibility for," Spector said.

Although city officials have accepted no blame for the flooding, they have considered buying Stone’s land and relocating her. Stone and her family, however, say there’s no way Stone will leave.

"This is family land," Spector said. "It's her home. She's not going anywhere."

In a May 12 letter to the city's chief engineer, David Nichols, Emery Sapp & Sons said it is not at fault.

"As much as we do sympathize with anyone who suffered losses from these acts of nature, we must make it clear that Emery Sapp & Sons, Inc., does not accept responsibility for those losses," the company’s project manager, Jason Rode, said in the letter.

The company said that it worked in accordance with all industry practices and legally issued permits and that the flood was an act of nature. The temporary construction crossing was authorized by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and is normal procedure, said Ward Lenz, Missouri state project manager for the Corps. Lenz said Emery Sapp & Sons told him that the 4-inch rain that coincided with the flooding washed away culverts that were part of the temporary crossing.

Lenz said that the Corps has not inspected the site since the crossing was completed but that the contractors have committed no violations.

The company did not return calls for comment.

Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala said he isn't specifically assigning blame to anyone for the flooding of Stone’s land, but he thinks the construction contributed to the problem.

"All I know is that because of rain and flooding, the opening on these culverts got blocked up," leading to damming of the creek, Skala said. He added that determining responsibility would be a legal matter if the Stones choose to pursue it.

Skala is particularly upset about the lack of urgent city response to Stone’s concerns and what he calls inadequate oversight of city contractors.

"It's important to make sure the city puts inspectors in the field," Skala said.

Nichols said city inspectors keep an eye on contractors and visit the Hinkson site almost daily. He said Emery Sapp & Sons is following city specifications.

Nichols visited Stone's house once after the flooding to gather information but said he doesn’t know enough to determine what caused the flooding. City acquisition manager Wendy Lister met with Stone last week.

Skala said he is unhappy that the city initially failed to follow up with Stone. In a June 3 e-mail to City Manager Bill Watkins, before Lister’s visit, Skala said no one from the city had contacted Stone in the 27 days following Nichols’ initial meeting with her.

Skala called that “unacceptable and intolerable.”

Stone had no idea what the city was planning on her behalf because she has no computer and received nothing by mail, Spector said.

Spector said that both the city and Emery Sapp & Sons have made it clear they will offer no monetary help, so the family is just trying to help Stone get everything back together. At this point, Stone said she just wants the city to leave her alone to clean up. Spector said Stone will have help.

"We will do what we're doing," Spector said. "We have family, and we have friends. We'll do what we have to do to get her back to normal."


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Ray Shapiro June 14, 2009 | 12:34 a.m.

("Stone said Emery Sapp & Sons inadvertently dammed Hinkson Creek when it dumped rock in the creek bed to facilitate the bridge construction. Stone's daughter Donna Spector said the family doesn’t think the contractor did it on purpose.")
Sounds to me like a nice family that got hurt by a mistake made by a construction company.
I hope the construction company's insurance carrier can help with some financial restitution.
It's always a shame when irreplaceable personal stuff gets destroyed in floods and fires, etc...

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr June 14, 2009 | 9:58 a.m.

My question is if some one where to look back at what is the history of past floods on this one creek and how that history has been effected by all building above and below this woman's home.

There is never a cause with out a action some where else.

(Report Comment)
Elizabeth Allemann June 14, 2009 | 6:30 p.m.

Good article. Thanks for shedding light on a dark story.

Even if what we did to this woman is legal, we shouldn't be doing it. It's not right to make somebody's home unsafe to live in. Perhaps the bridge isn't really necessary? Perhaps everyone who benefits from the bridge should chip in to make things right with Ms. Stone? Offering to buy her land and move her somewhere else sounds like we don't think we can make things safe for her again? What are we doing to this creek? What other consequences will those actions have?

Whoever made the calculations for the culverts was mistaken. Somebody should be responsible for changing the way we make calculations like that. We have 4 inch rainstorms in this part of the world. Those storms wash debris. This sounds like something that could have been predicted before it happened.

(Report Comment)
Lynze Eades June 14, 2009 | 10:00 p.m.

Ms Stone is my grandmother. She is a wonderful, loving and caring person. For as long as I can remember she has maintained her land at Hinkson Creek. For the city to suggest buying and relocating her from what she (and the rest of out family) have called home is ludacris! Someone needs to step up and take responsibility. I would hope that the people of Columbia would not tolerate the city officials, council members, contractors, etc... not making this right again! So to the guity parties involed all I have to say is "Put on your BIG girl undies and deal with it!!!!"

(Report Comment)
brenda norvell June 14, 2009 | 10:35 p.m.

I would like to thank the Missourian for running the article regarding my mother, her land and the April flood. I would also like to thank all of our friends and family that have beed supportive. The clean-up has been a challenge. My sisters, Donna Spector and Sandra Moringstar, along with friend Doug Hufendick responded quickly to ensure our mothers safety and to begin initial clean-up. My husband Patrick and I flew in to assist.It goes without saying, we are tired, frustrated and sad. However, I am very proud of my mother for her stamina, strength and faith. Things are getting back to normal. The land is green, plants are returning and mom is back to mowing, weeding and nurturing the insult her land has sustained. The city has assured us that they will keep us informed of any upcoming projects that would affect our mother and her safety, we are taking them at their word. This is not just a piece of property, it is a Northern Cherokee Holy Site, it is our History and my mothers home.

(Report Comment)
Carol Zeman June 15, 2009 | 7:41 p.m.

This is just not right. It is another instance of government and developers, in the name of progress, not taking responsibility for their actions. If there was lack of consideration, Ms Stone should not be the one to pay for it with her home. To ignore her plight is unconscionable and the city is not serving the community by doing so.

(Report Comment)
jason levinson June 16, 2009 | 10:32 a.m.

I was born in 1974 and began my life on that property. I currently live in New York. We have family stretching from the Carolinas to California and have traveled from as far as Oregon to spend the holidays at my grandmothers home. Yes, it is a trailer, but we make it work and we have been making it comfortable for 35 years.
There is no way this property is leaving our family. Especially not due to poor planning by the army corps of engineers and Emory Sapp and Sons.

A FOUR INCH RAIN DOES NOT CAUSE THIS LEVEL OF FLOOD UNLESS YOU BLOCK THE WATER. A third grader can calculate this... Before construction: 4 inch rain = nothing major. After construction: 4 inch rain = major flooding. "Kids, if you had to guess, what caused the major flooding?"

Thank you for running this story. It is my hope that the oversights on the part of the army corps of engineers and Emory Sapp and Sons ends with property damage and not the forced removal of my grandmother from our family's home base. That would be a disgrace and a stain on the history of the city of Columbia - the city we in our family call "home", even those of us who live far away.

(Report Comment)
Marti Rabon June 16, 2009 | 12:37 p.m.

Leave this STONE unturned!
I do not personally know Mrs. Stone but my son, Trace, has been a part of their wonderful family since he and Jason (her grandson)and Sarah (her granddaughter) were kids in high school. Another granddaughter, Kalista, joined our family a few years ago. I remember that during the holidays, and all year long, everyone looked forward to going to Grandma's in Columbia. Why would a city like Columbia (or any city, for that matter) want to disrupt lifelong happiness and family togetherness such as that? Do you have no feelings at all? It would be very little to the Army Corps of Engineers and Emory Sapp and Sons to help Mrs. Stone keep her life and family together........It would be EVERYTHING to her and her loving family. HAVE A HEART, COLUMBIA! DO THE RIGHT THING! Just put everything back to normal.

(Report Comment)
jame jack August 5, 2009 | 12:32 p.m.
(Report Comment)

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