Independence city councilman wants to help flooded businesses involved in lawsuit

INDEPENDENCE, Mo -- Business owners along U.S. 24 Highway are breathing a sigh of relief.

A broken sewer pipe is now filled with gravel after the land owner complained that it didn't work, and the city of Sugar Creek didn't want to repair it.

That culvert sits on the north side of U.S. 24 Highway, which is considered part of Sugar Creek. The gravel-filled pipe, which is surrounded by orange construction cones, belongs to Mark Cosgrove. He owns Best Buy Car Company, a local used car dealer that's been in business for nearly three decades.

It's become an expensive dispute between warring businesses, and Independence City Council member Mike Huff said it's time it ends.

Last October, Thelma Jordan, who operates Fairmount Liquors in Independence filed a lawsuit against Cosgrove, accusing him causing the flooding that's cost her more than $100,000 in merchandise. Jordan's store sits on the south side of U.S. 24, which is marked as Independence.

"This one, I considered not even opening back up. I just can't do it anymore," Jordan told FOX4.

Jordan said she never saw the floodwaters rising on May 25. The watermark is still on the front of her store where water rushed and ruined beverages and cigarettes, and Jordan complains it's happened before. She said she's run the store for 26 years, and there was only limited flooding until the culvert was filled with gravel.

"I lost thousands and thousands of dollars. We had to have coolers repaired every time this happens. The expenses just go up and up," Jordan said. "This is basically my retirement."

FOX4 asked Cosgrove for a comment, but he forwarded our request to his attorney, Jim Durbin, who didn't call back before our story aired on Wednesday afternoon.

That's where the Independence City Council comes into play.

Mike Huff, a lifelong Independence resident, serves as a city council member at-large. Huff told reporters Cosgrove plans to relocate the car lot from Sugar Creek to Independence since Sugar Creek city leaders won't replace the broken culvert. He sees Cosgrove's complaint since he's lost cars to the flooding, but he also understands Jordan's need to run her store.

"We need to resolve this issue and take care of those people down there," Huff said. "This company decided, I'm not sitting any longer. You're destroying my business. His business has dropped tremendously with the media and everything. It's been hard on his business, and I'm sure the liquor store has felt the same effect."

Huff said he believes Cosgrove covered the drain pipe with rocks because it didn't work, and he didn't want it to serve as a hazard for customers and pedestrians.

FOX4 reached out to the city of Sugar Creek, but our request for comment from Jana Olivarez-Dickerson, Sugar Creek's city clerk, wasn't returned. MoDOT manages the upkeep of U.S. Highway 24, but a spokesperson for that agency said the transportation agency would have nothing to add.

Huff said he's been working with members of the state legislature, including Rep. Rory Rowland of Independence to see that someone takes responsibility for repairing that pipe.

"This is the first time anyone's said anything positive about getting some help in getting it fixed," Jordan said.

"It's detrimental. Besides weeks of traffic, these businesses -- if you're not open, you're not selling product," Huff added.

Jordan said she's encouraged, hearing that someone finally wants to help. However, given the amount of damage her business has suffered, she wonders if assistance hasn't arrived too late.

The Independence City Council will discuss plans to further control the flooding at a planning meeting on July 24.