- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 16, 2015

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - The City Council has approved a $1 million disaster assistance program to aid Lincoln residents whose homes were damaged by raw sewage that backed up during heavy rains, but some of the victims are still considering suing the city.

The council program approved Monday provides $5,000 for victims of backups caused by storm runoff overwhelming the Theresa Street wastewater treatment facility on Oct. 1, 2014, and May 6-7 this year. Last month residents recounted at a council meeting how the sewage spilled from toilets, shower drains and basement floor drains into their homes and apartments.

But the new program is aimed at protecting the health of residents, city attorney Jeff Kirkpatrick said, so covers only cleanup.

“This is a disaster assistance program, not an insurance program that reimburses all costs,” Kirkpatrick said, according to the Lincoln Journal Star.

It’s not enough help or compensation, resident Richard Avila told television station KOLN.

“I will not settle for that,” Avila said. “That’s nowhere close to the damage that we’ve sustained on both storms.”

Kathy and Terry Danek, whose basement was damaged in both backups, are hosting a meeting Tuesday night at Huntington Elementary School with representatives of a law firm that a meeting notice said was “experienced in representing citizens injured by actions or negligence of municipalities and government agencies.”

Kirkpatrick has recommended that the council deny the official claims of 31 property owners and renters seeking reimbursement for the Oct. 1 sewer backup. And he told the council on Monday that his office likely will recommend denial of any claims filed for last month’s backup.

The city is not legally responsible for the sewer backup damage, Kirkpatrick’s office has said, because city staffers were not negligent and because the damage was caused by an “act of God” - the heavy rain.

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