Company to offer water/sewer protection

11/27/2012

By SCOTT AUST

By SCOTT AUST

saust@gctelegram.com

Garden City homeowners soon will get a letter from a Pennsylvania-based company offering a subscription-based water and sewer line protection program that would cover repair costs when service lines break down.

The city of Garden City is responsible for repairing water and sewer mains. For water, the city maintains the main and a service line to the meter, which normally is located near the sidewalk. Everything from the meter to the home is the homeowner's responsibility to repair. For the sanitary sewer, the homeowner is responsible for everything from the sewer main to the home.

Sometimes, a basic homeowner's insurance policy may not cover the cost of those service lines. That's the portion that Service Line Warranties of America is offering to cover.

Last week, the Garden City Commission approved SLWA's warranty program for residential customers, but the city will not have anything to do with operating the program.

Mike Muirhead, public utilities director, said participation in the program is entirely optional, and homeowners are under no obligation to participate.

"It's a good deal," he said. "I support the program. It's a good opportunity, especially if you own an older home and you know you have service line troubles."

For a monthly fee of $4 to $6 for a water line and $5 to $8 for a sewer line, the SLWA will pay up to $4,000 each time the service line needs repaired or replaced. The organization will use local, licensed plumbers and contractors who will respond to service calls and perform the work.

"There are times homeowners are unsure about who maintains that line and who doesn't," Muirhead said. "They call the city, which is fine. We will help them locate their problem, but it is the homeowner's responsibility. And it can become very expensive to replace or repair that line."

Muirhead said costs vary, but could range from a few hundred dollars for a simple service line leak up to several thousand dollars if one of the old galvanized steel lines has to be replaced.

"It also depends on whether there are sidewalks or driveways involved, and where the line comes into the home," he said. "Pretty much everything that's been built since 1980 is either PVC and copper service lines, but I would agree the older part of town is probably more vulnerable to those kinds of things."

According to information on the SLWA website, if any part of the service line is broken or leaking, the company will repair or replace it, including clearing tree roots from the line. The program doesn't cover repairs to meters or meter vaults, branch lines to sprinklers, pools, or hot tubs and does not cover septic systems. It also does not cover anything inside the house.

Participants are not locked into a long-term plan. They can pay month to month or sign up to pay a year at a time. Also, there is no annual coverage cap. The $4,000 cap is for each incident regardless of the number of incidents. All work is under warranty for a year.

Muirhead said the SLWA has indicated its contractors have to respond to a subscriber within an hour.

"So if you call at 2 o'clock in the morning and say you have water squirting out of the ground, somebody either needs to call or show up within 60 minutes, and then they make arrangements to make the repairs and do whatever they need to do," he said.

According to the SLWA website, the majority of repairs are completed within one or two days of receiving a claim. Those that take longer are usually repairs that involve preventing accidental damage to other utility lines on a property.

Muirhead said the National League of Cities endorses the program, something it rarely does.

"I'm sure they did background work on it just like we did. There have been no complaints whatsoever that we can find. Apparently, this group is very good," he said.

Though the city is not liable for any of the work performed by SLWA and will have nothing to do with the program's billing or paperwork, it will receive 10 percent of the revenue generated by local subscriptions each year. Muirhead said the city commission has not decided what it will do with the money, and it's unknown how much money the city could receive.

Based in Canonsburg, Pa., the SLWA was founded in 1996 and currently is licensed in 45 states, including Kansas. Ten cities in Kansas are using the program, including Dodge City. More information about the company and the program is available online at www.utilitylineprotection.com.

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