Warranty would help with surprise utility line costs


HUNTINGBURG — The city is considering allowing a company to offer utility line warranties to utility customers.

But, Huntingburg Common Council members would like to hear from customers, to see if there is interest.

The council heard a presentation Tuesday night from Rob Meston of Utility Service Partners, which offers the warranty program. Mayor Denny Spinner attended a National League of Cities conference in Charlottesville, Va. recently, where he learned about the warranty program. Utility Service Partners work with the National League of Cities to offer the program to member cities.

“The National League of Cities recognized that there is an issue with aging infrastructure and utility lines across the country,” Meston said. “They wanted to put something in front of homeowners to assist them.”

The city takes care of the main utility lines, and the maintenance of lines from the main line to a person’s home is the property owner’s responsibility.

“We realize that the cities are doing their part in updating the city’s side of these lines. But it’s the homeowner’s side that gets left behind,” Meston said. “When a replacement is needed, it’s the homeowner that has to come up with this out-of-pocket expense.”

The warranties act like insurance, in that they cover the costs for line repairs, like a leak or line break. For a water or sewer line, the warranty is for up to $8,500 per repair, Meston said. The national average cost for a repair is $3,000 to $4,000.

For the repairs, customers will have a choice of a local company that is part of the Utility Service Partners network. If the customers have another provider they prefer, they can contact the Utility Service’s call center with that preference.

If the city agrees to partner with Utility Service Partners, the company would ask for the city’s assistance in introducing the program to its utility customers. After that, Utility Service Partners would contact the customers to see if they are interested in enrolling in the program.

The monthly rate for each warranty, which can be paid monthly or yearly, is $6.75 for a waterline, $7.75 for a sewer line, $9.99 for interior plumbing, $4.99 for a gas line, $5.99 for an interior electric line, and $5.49 for an exterior electric line.

There is no cost to the city for allowing this service, Meston said. If the city wanted, it could receive a royalty every January from Utility Service Partners of 50 cents per month per line under a warranty. If the city would decide to take that royalty, it would be given back to the customer.

The company would also send residents information in the mail several times per year; those mailers must be approved by the city before they go out, Meston said.

Council members said they wanted to review the idea before making a decision.

“I’d like to have more time to think about it and discuss this with other people in the community,” Councilman Steve McPherron said. “I think it’s a very intriguing program. But I’d like to get feedback from the residents, to see if they understand this program and what the partnership is. It’s not the city that is doing this.”

Councilman Tim Wehr expressed his concern with the city endorsing a company that is promoting a service.

“We are a public entity,” he said, “and we are endorsing a private business, I assume. My concern is that we’re going to open the door to everybody who wants to come over and say, ‘Hey, we want your endorsement.’ How are you going to say no to them?”

The council decided to review the information and give local utility customers time to give them feedback.

Utility Serve Partners has more than 500 cities and utility service districts as partners across the county, including eight in Indiana. Evansville and Gary joined the program within the last year, Meston said.

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