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Upset Homeowner Takes Landslide Frustrations To Kilbuck Twp. Supervisors

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KILBUCK TOWNSHIP (KDKA) -- When the skies open up, the residents of Kilbuck Township worry about landslides.

"We've had a dozen slides here in Kilbuck in the last eight years," said Kilbuck Township Manager Harry Dilmore.

The most famous is the Walmart site slide, which buried Route 65. Dilmore says it has cost Walmart "over $100 million reclaimating the site."

Laura and Russ Hartzell's pockets aren't so deep.

"Our house has been determined a total loss," said Laura. "To fix this house would cost far more than the purchase price of the property."

Two days after the Hartzells closed on the house last March, the hillside behind it crushed in the back wall. They are now suing those who built the house, in part for not knowing what they were building on.

"I think they would have found, actually, that the home never should have been built in this location," Laura said.

The red clay below the Hartzells, like below the Tomaros down the street, acts like a slip 'n slide when it gets wet, and everything on top succumbs to gravity. It took out the main portion of Tom Tomaro's house.

"My wife and I understand it," Tomaro said. "There is not insurance for it. It is what it is."

Dilmore says the slides are on private property, so there's little they can do except wait to clean up what hits township roads.

"It really hurts, as a township administrator, that there's nothing more that you can do," he said.

But Laura isn't buying it. She took her concerns to the Kilbuck Township Supervisor's meeting Tuesday night.

She told KDKA's Kym Gable, "Building Inspection Underwriters is a third party permitting company that Kilbuck works with that failed to issue a grading permit. As a result, the excavators started to dig and never supported the tow of the hill."

Hartzell told the board she simply wants the same attention given to other property owners whose structures were also impacted.

Township Solicitor Charles Means told the media, "There were township officials at that property, actually in that house at the time, so there was response by the township."

Still, Laura believes council should pass new codes.

"Grading permits or land studies need to be done before considering building or buying a home here, or land for that matter," she says.

The frustration of the Hartzells and Tomaros is understandable, and Dilmore says he not giving up trying to find a way to help.

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