City rules it’s not responsible for damage of massive water main break that flooded 100-year-old church

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – The City of Rochester says it is not responsible for damage caused by the massive water main break at Christmas time.

It made that ruling after a pastor filed a claim against the city for damages to her church. When she got the denial from the city, the pastor invited News10NBC to see what’s left of her church.

Pastor Beverly Renford took me inside her church on Favor Street in Corn Hill. The damage is so severe, the heat and electricity are still off. The building is unusable. They’ve gone back to having services on zoom.

The water line is still stained on the wall.

Photos from the time of the flooding show the entire basement of the church, including the pastor’s office, was under five feet of water.

In February, Pastor Renford filed a Notice of Claim against the city. It said the damages are “catastrophic” and exceed $250K.

In its response Friday, the city told the pastor it investigated the break and determined the city was “not negligent in the installation or maintenance of its water system.”

The water line was installed around 1899.

Brean: “Do you think the city is responsible for paying for that damage?”

Renford: “Greater Bethlehem Temple Pentecostal Church: I wholly do.”

Brean: “Why?”

Renford: “Because we didn’t do anything to cause it. When we went to the polls in November to vote for infrastructure and all of that, we thought for sure every municipality was checking things. And so that happened, and they opened up the hole we could see the old Clarissa Street down in there, and all of the things that were corroded. And my belief is the city is to own up.”

Pastor Renford said insurance can’t pay because when the break happened, a clerical issue put the church in between policies and uninsured.

Brean: “Bad timing.”

Renford: “Bad timing all the way.”

Brean: “What would make you satisfied?”

Renford: “That this church was back where it was so we could worship God like we should, and be an open fellowship place where we can cook and serve the community.”

If you’ve run into the construction on State Street downtown, that’s the city replacing a 100-year-old water line.

Every municipality is protected in its code from damages like this. Unless it gets written notice of a defect prior to the problem happening, the municipality is not responsible. That’s why you can’t get the city, town or county to pay for damages to your car if you hit a pot hole.

The last resort for Pastor Renford is to sue the city in state supreme court. She told me she’s already talked to her lawyer about that.