Utility Service Partners, Inc.

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CUSTOMER SPOTLIGHT: Michael and Kathleen O’Brien Tucson, Arizona

Obrien 2When you live in a scorching desert climate like Arizona, having a tree on your property can bring beauty, cooling shade for your home and even a quiet place to gather outdoors as a family. However, trees can also be hazardous to your sewer lines, as Michael and Kathleen O’Brien recently learned when their beloved mesquite tree’s aggressive roots collapsed a portion of their sewer line, which could have led to disaster.

“We first noticed that when we would do a load of washing, everything would slow down,” said Michael O’Brien. “We live in an area that has sewer pipes that were put in during the 1980s. It was a different type of plumbing quality back then.”

Their beautiful mesquite tree towers over their home and has spent many years providing the family shade in their yard. It’s a special tree to the family, but mesquite trees have extremely aggressive root systems and over time the roots invaded the O’Brien’s line, causing problems.

Upon contacting Service Line Warranties of America (SLWA), a plumber was dispatched to evaluate the situation. It was quickly determined there was a collapse in the line near the tree that would need to be excavated and replaced. The O’Brien’s feared their beloved tree was a goner – but knowing the importance of shade in Arizona, our plumber was able to save the tree with little disturbance.

“There was no access for the excavator, so we had to send our crew out to physically dig the connection while grinding through an old tree root system,” said Eric Kaiser of Presidio Plumbing. “It was during the peak of summer and over a hundred degrees every day, but we had to make it happen. People can’t live without their sewer.”

“The plumber [and his crew] were incredible from day one,” said Michael O’Brien. “They came out, cleared the pipe and found the tree roots. They were able to excavate and circumvent the tree. I mean, it’s Arizona! I need all the shade I can get. The backhoe wouldn’t fit into most of the area, so there was a large part that had to be done by hand. We kept bringing water out to the guys for doing such good work. They worked hard and got it all done in record time and restored the yard to what it was. It was perfect! I was just overwhelmed by the customer service.”

Although the repair to the O’Brien’s lines took about 12 days due to permits and manual work to save the tree, our network contractor made sure the family only had service interruptions for short periods of time sporadically.

“From the outset, your customer service people were incredibly helpful and acted with sympathy, compassion and a sincere desire to help,” said Michael O’Brien. “When it came to digging up and replacing more than ten feet of crushed pipe, your contracted agent, Presidio Plumbing, was as professional and efficient as plumbers can get. The interruption of normal utility delivery was minimal and when the job was completed in record time, you would hardly know they were ever there. Superb work!”

As his neighbors watched, O’Brien heard many commenting on having such a significant repair and wondering what the ending bill would be. He smiled when the final invoice was nothing but zeros.

“Our neighbors were walking down the street saying this is going to cost a fortune and we kept telling them we’re covered!”

“This program saved us thousands of dollars,” said Michael O’Brien. [Without this program], this repair would have put a huge dent in our savings. I’m a retired teacher and my wife is semi-retired. It would have limited our ability to do anything else for a while.”

While the plumber worked hard on the front line, the SLWA team in the office kept the O’Brien’s in the loop every step of the way. “Every phone call was answered by someone who knew the situation and was responsive, kind and helpful,” said Michael O’Brien. “They couldn’t have been nicer. A company that is this compassionate and caring is unique! It’s like dealing with a good friend or close relative.”

Warranty Analyst Amanda Victor was one of the agents who worked closely with the O’Brien’s claim. “When people call in with claims, they’re in panic mode because they have water in the yard or the basement,” said Victor. “It’s my job to inform them of what they have covered and what I’m going to do to help them right away. We go over everything, make sure they understand the process and then follow up to make sure they’re happy. When you call and follow up, the customers know you truly care. They aren’t just a customer – we treat them like our own family and friends and help them through the situation. I honestly know that they’re frustrated, so they just need someone to reassure them that everything will work out and be fine in the end.”

Now that the repair work is complete and the yard restored, the O’Brien’s are grateful for the service they received from Service Line Warranties of America.

“We are really grateful for your excellent service and quick responsiveness,” said Michael O’Brien. “When service lines fail it can be at least very disruptive and at worst seriously critical. Repairs and reinstatement of service is often vital. It is so good to know that Service Line Warranties can be counted on. Thank you for your professionalism and reliability.”

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President’s Corner

When we created the NLC Service Line Warranty Program, the goal was to work with the National League of Cities to address a critical issue on which both organizations were aligned: aging infrastructure. While efforts were underway to address that need at the larger city level, we felt a need to help communities educate their residents about their responsibilities for the private water and sewer lines on their property while also providing an affordable solution to address the high cost of service line repairs.

Buried deep underground, these lines remain out of sight and out of mind… until there is a problem. Many homeowners are unaware of their responsibilities for the service lines that run between the point of the utility connection and the home. Moreover, they are under the impression that these lines rarely fail and if they did, the city or utility would perform, and cover the cost of, any needed repairs.

After 12 years, more than 270 partners around North America offer external water, external sewer and
in-home plumbing warranty protection programs to their communities through the National League of Cities Service Line Warranty Program, and to date, more than 100,000 homeowners have saved over $64 million in repair costs through the program.

Today, we are taking the next step forward in providing tools and information to assist our partners in educating their residents about the impacts of aging infrastructure on our local, natural resources.

Join us at the National League of Cities Congress of Cities and Exposition in Nashville November 4 – 7, where we will unveil a new campaign aimed at increasing awareness of the need to work together, creatively, to improve conservation efforts in communities across North America. Watch our website and social media channels for more information in the coming months and to learn how you can participate within your community. Visit www.utilitysp.net/SLAWeek for more information.

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shutterstock_126150698With more than half of publicly supplied water in the U.S. used by homes, an important focus of water conservation is on residences. Water conservation measures at the local level have tackled reducing existing customers’ water use by raising rates, restricting use, and educating consumers about conservation. A recent study offers a new conservation solution that focuses on new customers.

Water connection charges can be used to encourage water-saving designs in new construction and landscaping.

These charges are one-time assessments to new development to help pay for the direct costs of connecting to a utility’s water system and for the infrastructure and water resources capacity needed to support these new developments. They are also known as tap fees, impact fees, system development charges and plant investment fees.

Traditionally, these fees have been set at a uniform rate regardless of the size and location of a home or the type of outdoor landscaping. The size of the pipe connecting the customer’s plumbing to the main water system is the basis for the charge. All customers using a specific meter size pay the same charge. There is no relationship between the amount paid and the future water demand of the residence. The new approach relies on multi-factor connection charges. Factors used to determine water connection charges for single-family residential homes are:

  • Size of lots/irrigated areas. Large lots pay higher charges thereby encouraging smaller lots and less water use.
  • Water demands of different types of landscape. If the landscape has low-watering plants or
    no-watering plants the fee is lower than for turf grass lawns.
  • Efficiency of water fixtures. Installation of indoor water-efficient appliances lowers the
  • Home size. Larger houses, measured by square footage, number of bedrooms or number
    of bathrooms, pay higher charges. The report, Water Connection Charges: A Tool for Encouraging Water-Efficient Growth is an excellent resource to learn about the principles of connection charges and how individual communities are remaking their practices in this area.


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iStock_000028966020XLargeWe’ve been busy at work re-engineering our website, www.utilitysp.net, to provide a better user experience. Soon we will have a whole new look!

The new site will feature:

  • Improved navigation with new menus so you can find the information you need, fast
  • Enhanced content, including blogs and an improved newsroom so you can stay on top of all program development and news
  • An interactive map so you can see who is participating in your state or region
  • Updated program testimonials from our partner cities and their residents
  • A home page that will feature refreshed content: videos, stories and important news items that will keep you coming back

Stayed tuned for more information on the launch of our new site soon!

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Upcoming Events

We love seeing our current partners and meeting new prospects. Stop by our booth at the following conferences to chat with our representatives.

November 4 – 7, 2015
NLC Congress of Cities and Exposition
Nashville, TN
Located in the NLC Pavilion
Stop by and meet USP’s Chief Executive Officer, Philip E. Riley, Jr.; Vice President of Business Development, Brad Carmichael; Vice President of Marketing, Tisha Hulburd; Advisors Cathy Spain and Jim Hunt; and General Managers Brian Davis and Michael Madden.

November 17 – 19, 2015
New Jersey State League of Municipalities Annual Conference
Atlantic City, NJ
Booth #1837
Meet Regional Area Manager Jeff Milliner to learn how the NLC Service Line Warranty Program can help your community.

January 22 – 23, 2016
Massachusetts Municipal League Annual Meeting and Trade Show
Boston, MA
Meet Regional Area Manager Jeff Milliner to learn how the NLC Service Line Warranty Program can help your community.

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The fall campaign is in full swing and seeing great success! We welcomed 47 new cities into the program from across North America. In the United States, the program saw great growth in Arizona, Iowa and Texas, and we welcome our first partner in Utah! We are also happy to welcome several new partners in Canada. And, in Phoenix, we have surpassed the $1 million dollar mark in repair claims paid! Visit www.utilitysp.net for more information.

City of Globe
Town of Fredonia
Green Valley Council
City of Kingman

City of Duarte

City of Palmetto

City of Manly
City of Rock Valley
City of Cherokee
City of Atlantic

City of Portage
Town of Edgewood

City of Alexandria
City of Elsmere

City of Perham
City of Pelican Rapids
City of St. Michael

City of Lawson

New Jersey
Borough of Cliffside Park

Ontario, Canada
Town of Atikokan
Township of McGarry
Municipality of Meaford
Municipality of Bayham
Township of Assiginack
Municipality of Wawa
Municipality of Grey Highland
Township of Dubreuilville

City of Hermiston

Borough of Ridley Park

City of San Angelo
City of Arlington

City of Orem

West Virginia
City of Vienna

City of Lander

Join the more than 270 cities across the United States who participate in the National League of Cities Service Line Warranty Program. Contact us to learn how to bring the program to your city today! Call 866-974-4801, email partnerships@utilitysp.net or visit www.utilitysp.net.

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Out of sight, out of mind

shutterstock_153692441When roads break beneath your tires, you see the wear. You know after a harsh winter or a rainy summer, potholes emerge and repairs are necessary. Roadways aren’t the only things crumbling though. Deep underground, water and sewer lines go unnoticed for years before failure occurs, likely resulting in expensive repairs, flooding, and customers without service.

Millions of miles of pipes distribute water to homes around the nation and maintaining these systems comes at a hefty price. Ignoring their needs costs even more. Without timely repairs to broken and leaking pipes, the failures can become catastrophic – such as collapsing roadways, creating sinkholes, wasted water, and ground pollution.

As many parts of the nation face one of the worst droughts in history, water conservation is of the utmost importance for communities – regardless of whether there is a shortage. Local leaders need to educate their community on the importance of addressing failing infrastructure – both public and private.

“We trade in our cellphones after one year. We trade in TVs because we want a bigger screen. But we’re content to live with more-than-100-year-old pipes,” New York Congressman Paul Tonko told the Lockport Journal in a recent article. “Believing they will be there forever is unreasonable.”

It’s a common misconception that water and sewer pipes are going to last forever. In recent years, our nation has experienced harsh winters; quick, drastic temperature changes; dry summers, and intense rains. These extreme weather conditions shave years off the life expectancy of the pipes. In addition to weather, ground shifting and root intrusion are other common problems.

There are studies that note the billions of dollars needed to fix the failing public infrastructure, but what about the homeowners’ service lines that are facing the same extreme weather, ground shifting, tree root intrusion, and age? When their lines fail there are no taxes to raise and no federal funding – it’s straight out of their pocket. Repairs to water and sewer lines could range from $1,300 to as much as $3,500 or more. Not to mention the time and hassle of finding a reputable plumber, lost time at work, and damage to personal property.

More than 270 communities around the nation are helping their homeowners through repair programs such as the National League of Cities Service Line Warranty Program to provide a lifeline when they need it most. Let us help address aging infrastructure for homeowners in your community through affordable protection at no cost to the city. Learn more at www.utilitysp.net.