Farmington Fire and police shut down a section of West Navajo Street between North Auburn Avenue and Airport Drive in August after a flash flood washed
Farmington Fire and police shut down a section of West Navajo Street between North Auburn Avenue and Airport Drive in August after a flash flood washed away a large section of the road. (Daily Times File Photo)

FARMINGTON — Farmington city council in a Tuesday work session will discuss the city's legal responsibilities in managing stormwater.

In the work session beginning at 9 a.m. in City Hall, at 800 Municipal Drive, council will be briefed on three legal principals: design immunity, anti-donation clause and equal protection. The three principals — which are state statues — guide how the city responds and prepares for stormwater damage. The council will also decide whether to fund a $40,000 culvert under Las Brisas Trail near Foothills Drive.

Rains in 2010 and 2013 inundated the city and caused an estimated $5.5 million in damage, according to city officials. Parking lots flooded, culverts filled and arroyos surged over roads.

Property owners filed 201 claims after the two monsoon seasons seeking reimbursement from the city for flooding damages, according to city documents. The city approved three claims, Claims Manager Ezora Boognl said.

"Basically," City Attorney Jay Burnham wrote in a memo explaining design immunity and the other principals, "this means that no one can successfully sue the City for deciding to build (or not build) these facilities, but they can sue for the failure to properly maintain any facilities that are built."

Burnham wrote that the anti-donation clause prevents the city from spending tax dollars to benefit someone's interest or property. The clause is subject to a "number of exceptions," however.

Also, according to the equal protection principal, if the city conducts a project to help a single person, it must perform the same project to help others in similar situations, according to Burnham's memo.

But John Silva said earlier this month the city should pay for the flood water damage its storm drains cause. Silva, Three River Brewing Company owner, filed claims with the city after the 2010 and 2013 floods.

"Who's going to be responsible for the death of a child when he gets washed away in the water?" he asked.

The city's infrastructure to handle floodwaters is inadequate, he said. It should have more detention ponds, storm drains and other infrastructure to divert annual monsoon rains, he said.

Dan Schwartz covers government for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4606 and dschwartz@daily-times.com. Follow him @Dan_J_Schwartz on Twitter.