Saturday, June 18, 2011

I can be a B...

My neighbors, S and T, have been complaining for a couple of days that there was a leak in their basement plumbing that needed to be fixed. They asked me if I knew where their curb box/valve was so their plumber could shut off the service and make the needed repairs.

It turned out that he needed to call the City of Columbus water department to locate the valve and eventually turn it off.  From all accounts, on 6/15 the city came out couldn't get it to shut off so they came back on the 16th, where between 3 crews and 6 guys they finally managed to shut it off for the necessary 20 minutes or so for Jason, the plumber to make the repair. And then came back out and waited for the city to restore service.  The crews determined that the water valve was not facing the right direction.  Somehow it was turned at an angle and sort of facing the other side of the street.  In all of the manuevering the city crew somehow told Jason that it would be OK for him to dig down to the valve to figure out what was wrong. 

When I came home Thursday evening there was a gigundonormous hole in their yard with a far accumulation of water in the bottom. And the pipe that one usually accesses the valve through was laying across the hole, which had 4 stakes and caution tape surrounding it. S and T thought that the city would be back on Friday to fix it.   

When I got home Friday afternoon there was still a hole.  What I didn't realize was that the City had turned off S & T's water that morning.  After dinner I watched/heard a City water department employee arrive and tell T that the City had never been there, that they knew nothing about it, where was their (S & T) permit, and that they knew nothing about the hole, that they wouldn't fix it until T pumped the water out of it and there was no way that he could turn the water back on.   As an observer I have to say that the guy never introduced himself, and talked down to T as if she had 1. done something wrong or 2. as a woman, was too stupid to do anything about it. 

T called S to explain the situation, I volunteered access to my bathroom in the meantime.  They called their landlord, who under City regs is the one who has to contact the water department.  She was told that they couldn't get someone out to turn the water on until sometime Saturday at the earliest.  In the meantime S came home and produced the signed paperwork left by the water department over the last 2 days. 

As a former bureaucrat I know most of the tricks, so I suggested contacting the Mayor's hotline.  Turns out it's only open M-F and only until 6pm.  (That's so effective for a HOTLINE.)  So my next trick was to call the posted after hours emergency contact number for the water department.  Turns out if you follow the directions it gives you, it will hang up on you.  So much for that, so I called back and stubbornly waited out the answering system to force it to send me to a real, live person.  I started explaining the situation, pointed out that a lack of water service is a life safety issue and that something needed to happen to resolve this issue.  At one point the operator interrupted to ask if this was address X.  Why yes it was, and I had the tags, stating that they had turned the water off and on, resolving the issue on 6/16, and that I didn't understand why there was a tag dated 6/17 stating the basement was flooding and they were shutting the water off on 6/17.  She stated that they would be out on Saturday sometime to turn the water on.  I pointed out, politely, that this was a life safety/health and welfare issue and what were we supposed to do with no water.  That this needed to be fixed ASAP.  She indicated that she would talk to her supervisor again, but that she thought that he would again say that they had no manpower and would try to fix it on Sat.

Politely bitchy is how I refer to this tactic.  S&T were impressed by the effort, and were more amazed by a phone call to a friend who happens to be a reporter with the local paper.  His advice of who to contact at the City Desk, while not directly effective, provided us with some amusement value.

The three of us, decided to kick back on their porch to see what would happen.  You can't imagine our surprise about 2 hours later to see a City water truck zip past the house.  We had some neighbors cars juggled around to provide him access, but in about 30 minutes he had the hole pumped out and the water working again.  Following a lengthy discussion, it was determined that the City would have to come back out and replace the leaking curb valve and line clear back to the main.  Turns out that the line is lead of all things and should be replaced for health reasons anyway.  Based on the discussion, it looks like the soonest they could fix it would be Weds or Thurs of next week.  Be interesting to see how long that hole stays open.

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