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Lake City Utility Customers May Be Purchasing Affordable Insurance For Ancient Utility Hookups

Mike Madden presents the Utility Service Partners, Inc. program to the Utility Committee.

LAKE CITY, FL – Last night Lake City's Utility Committee heard a presentation from the Eastern U.S. General Manager of Utility Service Partners, Inc., Mike Madden, who in partnership with the National League of Cities presented the City with a program for City Utility Customers, which for minimal cost, will insure residential water and sewer line connections and pipes against breakage, blockage, clogs, and leaks. Some of the residential connections in the City date back to the mid 1920s.

Mr. Madden told the Committee that the infrastructure of the average house is 40 years old and lines are failing. He said, "Homeowners find out about the problems when they have problems. The National League of Cities has brought out this program to find an affordable solution to the problem."

The program covers water and sewer service lines. On the water side the lines are covered from the meter to the house. On the sewer side the lines are covered from the tap in the street to where the main line enters into the house.

Mr. Madden explained, "It covers any repairs to those lines: repairs, replacements, leaks, clogs, breaks – any of those types of items that the homeowner would have problems with. They are taken care of for no additional money, other than just the monthly fee."

The coverage is up to $4,000 for repair or replacement of the line, each and every time that the lines need to be serviced. There is an additional $500 of coverage for the sidewalk. On a sewer line the coverage is up to $8,000.

Local contractors are used and there are no pre-existing conditions.  Coverage would begin immediately upon signing the agreement. There are no required inspections to be insured. The company accepts any line as is.

The program is cancellable at any time. All permit fees that might be required during a repair are paid for by the policy.

Mr. Madden explained the claims process, "All the homeowner has to do is make a phone call. We dispatch the contractor. We make sure that the contractor is a master plumber – licensed and bonded. We follow up with the homeowner and make sure the contractor has done a quality job."

"The cost is roughly $5.50 per month for the water line and $7.50 per month for the sewer line." There is a discount for an annual contract."

The homeowner can sign up for either or both of the programs.

The Lake City Utility Committee planned for the future at last night's meeting.

Mayor Witt asked how many folks sign up in other communities. The answer was about 25-30% over three years.

A committee member asked if there was a limit on the length on the line that may have to be replaced. The answer was there is no limit or lifetime cap.

Mayor Witt asked Utility Director Steve Roberts for a breakdown of City vs. County customers.

Mr. Roberts answered that the City Utility has 10,000 City and 13,000 customers outside the City.

It appears that County customers of the City Utility would be able to purchase coverage.

Assistant City Manager Grayson Cason asked if the coverage paid for lost water for which a customer would be billed.

Mr. Madden answered, "Some of the cities that we work with use some of the revenue they get back from the program to do an offset to help homeowners in those situations offset some of those water bills."

The firm bills customers directly and is in no way connected with the City Utility.

Utility Director Roberts told the Committee, "This would help low income people that may have an issue in their yard and there's quite a few of them."

A City employee, speaking under the condition of anonymity, told the Observer, "I think this is a good program because some the the City's citizens can't afford these big contractors. It's $75 for a plumber just to come to your house."

City Manager Johnson moved that the City get a contract for the City Attorney to review.

If the City agrees to participate in the program, City Utility customers should be able to begin signing up in April. The City gets 50¢ for each customer who signs up for the program.

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