Hobart board dismisses order against owner of pit where boys drowned
By Karen Caffarini Post-Tribune correspondent July 16, 2014 9:16PM
Updated: August 18, 2014 10:13AM
HOBART — The Board of Public Works and Safety on Wednesday dismissed an order to comply for the owner of the property where two brothers drowned last month, but the city may still take legal action against the owner on two other counts.
City Attorney Anthony DeBonis said he could pursue litigation against property owner Randy Goldschmidt under stormwater management and fill permit violations.
“I thought we were just taking action on this document (the order to comply),” board member Richard Lain said.
According to a police investigation, Goldschmidt failed to take out required permits and follow city regulations when he dug a large pit on his property in the 4000 block of Missouri Street, which filled with water, creating a pit that police say was up to 20 feet deep.
Brothers Donel Smith, 9, and Terrion Smith, 8, of Gary drowned in that water-filled pit on June 14 while playing with other youngsters.
Building official Mike Hannigan recommended the board dismiss the order to comply, which could have subjected Goldschmidt to $1,000 in penalties, saying the owner fulfilled all four actions the city required of him the day after the tragedy.
The actions included removing all berms that had been installed without the required permit and approvals, installing erosion control to prevent soil from entering the drainage way, grading the lot to prevent water from being contained and removing all debris from the property that isn’t permitted by city ordinance.
“The property is in much better condition today. All the work has been completed to my satisfaction,” Hannigan said.
“I think I went above and beyond what (Hannigan) asked me to do,” said Goldschmidt, who asked that the order be dismissed.
DeBonis has said he may take legal action but is waiting until the police investigation into the incident is complete before making a decision.
According to preliminary findings in the investigation, Goldschmidt began excavation at the site in April 2013. City engineer Phil Gralik told Goldschmidt at that time that he would need engineering drawings of the project and a site plan review by the plan commission before he could receive a permit for what Goldschmidt said would be a fishing pond.
Stormwater coordinator Tim Kingsland later discovered a drain tile and a breach in a berm were contributing to improper runoff onto a neighboring property. He told Goldschmidt it would be up to him to figure out how to prevent the runoff. He also told Goldschmidt he’d need a Stormwater Pollution Prevention plan for his project to continue, according to the report.
Goldschmidt’s solution, the report stated, was to fill the berm with clay and plug the drain tile, which caused the site to begin retaining water.
On another visit to the site, prompted by neighbors’ complaints of Goldschmidt possibly mining sand from the site, city inspectors noted it looked like the owner was trying to get the pond to be under 1 acre, under the mistaken belief he would then not need a permit.
Goldschmidt told the officials he would get the engineer’s drawings and apply for the site plan review. City officials said he failed to get the fill permit.
Police Chief Richard Zormier said the investigation is not yet complete.