The Osceola Water Works board had guest speaker Ashley Shiwarski, National League of Cities Service Line Program representative at their September 2 meeting.
This service line program is the only program endorsed by both the National League of Cities and the Iowa League of Cities. This program is provided by the company HomeServe and the program partners with city utilities, using their logo to send out direct mail to the utility customers offering this optional program. Mailings would only go out once the program has been reviewed and approved by Osceola Water Works. The program is currently being used by 112 other Iowa municipalities.
Within the program their are three options customers can chose, protection for external water lines, external sewer lines and in-home plumbing. All aspects of the program are handled by Help Serve, so if a resident signs up for the program and ends up having a leak or service line issues they would call Help Serve rather than Osceola Water Works.
The external lines would be repaired or replaced through the program, frozen lines would be thawed, if during a repair a lead line is discovered rather than repair it the lead line would be replaced. Homeowners receive up to $8,500 in coverage through the program for each and every repair incident. There is no annual or lifetime limit. There is no limit to the number of claims participants in the program can make in a calendar year. There are no service fees or deductibles. Participants in the program can pay monthly, quarterly or annually. The monthly price for external water line coverage is $6.75. The external sewer line coverage is $7.75 per month.
The in-home plumbing option covers any water, sewer or drain lines after the point of entry into the home that are broken or leaking. This includes lines under a slab or basement floor and the repair of clogged toilets. The in-home option, again, has no limit to the number of claims and no service fees or deductibles. This option covers up to $3,000 per incident. The monthly price for the in-home plumbing is $9.99.
Osceola Water Works would not pay anything to enter into the program, making it available to customers. They would get an annual revenue from the program. Osceola Water Works customers would be eligible to enter into the program at any time, there is a 30 day waiting period before services of the program would begin for any of the options. Options can be added at any time. Customers can also cancel at any time and would be refunded the money for any unused months.
“When a resident does have an issue with one of their external lines a lot of times their first call is to someone there at the utility. Then you have to use staff’s time going out there and determining that the issue may be on the resident’s piece of the line and then you’re the bearer of that bad news, explaining to a homeowner at the worst time possible that these lines are not covered by the utility or, typically, their home owners insurance,” said Shiwarski.
The program only uses local plumbers in order to keep money in the local economy but also because local plumbers know local codes and the types of permits needed but will do the job up to the programs standards. They engage plumbers into the program by using a contractors network, guaranteeing local plumbers a steady stream of work and direct payment from the program, not the customer. Before joining, plumbers will go through background and drug tests as well as checks for proper licensing and insurance. Plumbers in the network will call the homeowner no longer that four hours after a claim is filed through the program and be at the home within 24 hours. If no local plumbers are available to do the work in the set timeframe, the network plumbers in the next closes area will be contacted by the program.
The majority of the board was ready to move forward to having a legal review of the program following the presentation. Board member Dr. Jim Kimball wanted further discussion before the motion to move forward was voted on.
“I was wondering if we could have a fund of money that people could opt in to, say $10 a month. How many customers do we have? How much would that generate? I think we could do this ourselves,” said Kimball.
“Don’t you think that would be a logistical nightmare,” said board member Sara O’Hair.
“It’s an insurance policy,” said Kimball.
“But do we want to manage that,” said Board Chair Alisha Kale. “I’m attracted to it [the program] because right now if there’s anything inside the home, no one’s insurance is covering it. I would get this, I would get it all.”
“I’d be interested to see if our legal team would even be willing to let us do anything like this, having our own fund,” said Kale.
Vice-Chair Larry Bishop continued his earlier motion to move the program onto legal council as well as having the legal team consult the board on having their own account. Both options will then be discussed by the board after hearing legal advice at the October 7 meeting.
The board unanimously approved this motion.