Thursday, August 6, 2020
Aug. 6, 2020

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Clark County pays Sen. Ann Rivers $17,500 for mown hedges

Crews accidentally took down plants at state senator’s home

By , Columbian political reporter

Every month, people file claims against Clark County seeking some sort of compensation after the county damaged their property. If you think the county only messes up the property of average people and not those who hold the reins of power, think again.

It also turns out the county reimburses them for their loss.

Clark County recently paid out $17,500 to state Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, to compensate her after county work crews accidentally mowed down the hedges that line her property.

“I was in Olympia during the legislative session and my husband sent me a picture of where the hedge had always been and asked, ‘What do you know about this?’ ” Rivers said.

Rivers said she had over 400 feet of brushy, dense hedges that had been there for 20 years. She said the hedge served as a fence to keep their dogs and chickens in their yard. After the barrier was gone, she said coyotes got all but three of their 10 chickens.

Rivers lives off a county thoroughfare just outside of La Center. She said that in the winter the hedges look scrubby and that a county work crew mistakenly mowed them down. She said afterward she called the county, and on March 1 she filed a tort claim seeking compensation for the hedges.

“I feel compelled to say it was an accident and we’re not mad about it,” she said.

As for the cost, Rivers said that before new hedges can be planted, the roots of the old ones need to be ripped out, which she described as labor-intensive. Rivers submitted an estimate from a landscaping company to the county that put the job at $17,500. The estimate included work to dig out and replace the 435 feet of hedges, as well as cleaning up and hauling debris.

Public records show Clark County hired Norcross, a Seattle-based loss adjusting company, to look into Rivers’ claim and if the county was at fault. The adjuster’s report suggests the county was not to blame.

According to the report, the adjuster reviewed the damages and if they could be attributed to the county. The adjuster also looked into whether Rivers’ hedges were in the county’s right of way. The report states that the county code “provides Clark County with the right of way to pass over this stretch of land.”

“At this time, it appears the scope of loss claimed is within the right of way for Clark County,” the adjuster concluded in the report.

But despite the adjuster’s report, the county paid Rivers the full $17,500 on April 19.

Clark County Risk Manager Mark Wilsdon justified approving the claim. He said in an email that the adjuster only “went by the visual appearance not the technical map.” He said that he produced a map showing that half of the hedge was in the county’s right of way and the other side was on Rivers’ property.

“We had the right to mow/maintain what was in the (right of way), however we had no right to simply mow down their hedge that wasn’t in our (right of way),” he said. “This is a case where we owe the replacement at the size they were before we cut the material on their side. That can get expensive.”

When asked if she was satisfied with the payment from the county, Rivers responded with a text, “yes.”