Back in November, I rented my house at a bargain to a man that agreed to fix it up and probably buy it. This was a godsend to me. Those of you that have been following my house saga can attest to this. There was one thing that I failed to fill you in on back then that was quite the bur under my saddle and had to do with the city water department.
My tenant called me after he moved in back then and told me that he couldn't get the water turned on because there was an outstanding bill on it. "Poppycock," I said, or something akin to it. I happened to know that my nephew, the previous tenant, squared his bill with the water department after he moved out because I was with him when he did it.
I called down there to get to the bottom of it, and the customer service representative (and I use the term incorrectly) told me that water had been flowing through the meter and the owner of the property must pay for it. "Someone must have turned it on illegally," she said.
Then it dawned on me that the previous spring, I discovered that the technician who shut the water off when my nephew moved out, failed to turn it off all the way. Water had leaked into my back apartment building, broke a seal on a pipe joint and leaked out for months ruining the floor in two rooms. I was irrate, but decided that I would just deal with it. Easy mistake.
So, I told the woman on the phone that very item and she scoffed at me like I was a water thief trying to get away with something and restated that the bill must be paid before water can be turned on the property. I asked, "Do you mean to tell me that I have to pay for the water that was a result of a mistake YOUR EMPLOYEE made at my property that caused all this damage?"
Her reply is that POLICY states that if it flowed through the meter, it was my responsibility - and it was ALSO my responsibilty to inspect it after it was turned off to see if it was fully turned off.
I asked her if she had ever had brakes put on a car. She didn't answer so I assumed that she had. I asked, "Should a customer take the car home, put it up on blocks, take the wheels off the car and inspect the brakes, or should they assume that the tech that worked on the car had enough expertise to do the job correctly?"
She didn't like the question and avoided it by restating the policy. I finally asked to talk to a supervisor who also stood by this policy manual to the "t". I told him that if they were so worried about every drop being paid for, why do they allow the fire hydrant in front of my mother's house to flow years after I called to notify them of it. No answer. The hydrant in front of my mom's house has been flowing since November of 2005. They actually did some work on the corner and still left it that way.
I told the guy that when he died that I hoped he had a copy of that policy manual with him in his death bed, because it obviously meant more to him than the contents of ANY other holy book.
I ended up paying the bill. I emailed the mayor about it, but didn't even get a response. They haven't heard the last of it, though. The mayor periodically has these town hall type meetings in various parts of the city. I will be at the next one and everyone there (including local media) will learn of the policy and of those who follow it as if it was written by the finger of God. I just don't go away.
Here is the hydrant in front of my mothers house just last week: