Thursday, June 20, 2002

Stagnant water at construction sites frustrates area residents


Abandoned Erpenbeck projects leave mess, danger

By Gina Holt
Enquirer Contributor

        INDEPENDENCE — Residents of Taylor Mill's upscale Claiborne subdivision are keeping their children off the streets because of the Erpenbeck scandal.

        Several feet of stagnant green water sits in gaping holes on Stallion Court — the foundations of two unfinished homes under foreclosure in the $75 million homebuilder debacle — and parents don't want their kids to fall in it.

[photo] Stagnant water fills an excavation site on Stallion Court in the Claiborne subdivision in Independence.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
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        “My son loves to go over and throw rocks in there,” John Beighle, 34, of 6277 Stallion Court, who lives in one of the few homes not built by Erpenbeck, said about his 3-year-old.

        “He'd get in it in a minute if he could.

        “If a kid got in there, he would bust his head and then drown,” he added. “It's very frightening.”

        Two basements were poured at two lots on Stallion Court in the subdivision, where homes start at $250,000.

        The company run by the Crestview Hills homebuilder unraveled in early April. FBI investigations were mounted, misdirection of homebuyers' checks were discovered and mechanics' liens were filed by the hundreds by unpaid subcontractors. In Claiborne, the foundation holes were left and filled up with rainwater in this spring's heavy storms.

        Photos taken by neighbors show that they've been filled with water since mid-May.

        “I didn't know the holes were filled with water,” said Jeff Erpenbeck, president of the company and younger brother of Bill Erpenbeck, who resigned earlier this year.

        “I'm sure something will be done about it. I'm not sure what. I have to look into it.”

[photo] A ladder leads down into a flooded foundation on Stallion Court.
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        Peoples Community Bank in West Chester Township holds the notes on the two properties.

        “Those properties are still owned by Erpenbeck, but we're in the process of foreclosure,” said Jerry Williams, president of Peoples Community Bank.

        The properties are just two of more than 200 involved in the fallout of the multimillion labyrinth of lawsuits, investigations, mechanics' liens and bank claims.

        No one knows if or when construction will continue in the subdivision built by the Erpenbeck Co. Construction trucks moved out more than three months ago, residents say.

        “We're doing everything we can to make sure these properties are completed,” Mr. Williams said. “People will see a resolution once we get control.”

        The subdivision off of Taylor Mill Road is about a year old and has fewer than 30 homes built so far. Bearing the name of one of the state's most famous thoroughbred farms and fancy equestrian-oriented names, it welcomes residents with a white stable fence, a big brick sign, a clubhouse and a swimming pool.

        Tony Williams, 37, of 6339 Stallion Court, who lives in an Erpenbeck home, said he chose a house on a cul-de-sac to raise his three children, 7, 5 and 3, so that he could feel safe letting them play. But one of the holes is directly across the street from his home.

STORY ARCHIVE
Click here for all Enquirer reports on Erpenbeck Co.
INVESTIGATION
If you have any additional information on the business dealings of the Erpenbeck Co. or Peoples Bank of Northern Kentucky - or on the involvement of any parties not yet identified in our coverage - please email Enquirer business reporter James McNair at jmcnair@enquirer.com or Kentucky Enquirer reporter Patrick Crowley at pcrowley@enquirer.com.
        “We don't let the kids across the street at all,” Mr. Williams said. “There is no way to get them out if they do fall in.”

        Northern Kentucky has lost children to accidents in standing water before.

        On Aug. 31, 2000, 6-year-old Dylan Roberts drowned in 7 feet of standing water in a closed Latonia municipal pool after climbing through a hole in a fence to play with friends at Rosedale Park. The pool, closed since 1997, hadn't been drained diligently, the boy's mother alleged in a lawsuit against city officials, which was later settled for $800,000 with neither side acknowledging negligence.

        Mr. Williams is also concerned about health hazards.

        “There's an odor coming from it,” Mr. Williams said.

        Dave Fortner, environmental director for Northern Kentucky Independent Health District, said there are health concerns with stagnant water, but neighbors shouldn't be too worried.

        “There's about a million of water-borne diseases,” he said. Not all of them are serious. But West Nile virus is the most frightening problem caused by stagnant water right now.

        “It's carried by mosquitoes,” Mr. Fortner said. “They breed in stagnant water.” The virus is passed through mosquito bites.

        “It can be fatal,” he added, noting that it is rare.

        “A farm pond is a stagnant body of water and it has not caused any major health problems,” Mr. Fortner said.

        “Bacteria can grow in any stagnant water. Don't go drinking out of the hole. Just stay away from it.”

        Mr. Williams wants the holes taken care of immediately.

        “We called the city once on it already,” he said. “The lady I spoke with said it was the builder's responsibility.”

        “To my knowledge, this is the first the city is hearing about it,” Mark Wendling, city administrator for Independence, said Wednesday.

        “We are going to look into it. Finding all these things isn't easy for us. We need someone to bring it to our attention.”

        Kevin Barbian, building inspector for Independence, said a builder is permitted to leave a hole open for a certain period of time during construction.

        However, he said he thinks the Erpenbeck Co. has run out of time on these two properties.

        He said Wednesday that the company would be contacted and cited if necessary.

        “We'll make sure we get something done,” Mr. Barbian said.

        The holes aren't the only problem.

        “I have a swamp behind my house,” said Mr. Beighle.

        “There are open drainage systems. They could suck a kid into these runoffs in an instant.”

        “Two homes at the end of the cul-de-sac drain into the street instead of over the hill,” said Mr. Williams.

        “He (Bill Erpenbeck) told them he'd come back and fix it and he never did. There's moss and mold growing there because it's always wet.”

        Mr. Fortner said he worries that a child could become sick if he or she played with the moss or mold.

        “It's not what you expect buying into a new subdivision,” Mr. Williams added.

       



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