Utility Service Partners, Inc.

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Not All Home Warranties Are Created Equal

Linda J. of Baton Rouge thought she was covered in the case of an emergency home repair – after all, she had a plumbing policy from a national home warranty company.

So when Linda started having drainage issues, she called on K&S Plumbing.

The plumber removed roots from her sewer line, but advised her that the problem was larger than she had anticipated – her entire sewer line had been overtaken by tree roots. In addition, the huge water oak in front of her home – the roots of which were chewing up the pipe – couldn’t be cut down.

Tree roots typically seek out the warmth generated by sewage lines, particularly in colder months. To compound Linda’s problem, the sewer line was an old clay tile. K&S Plumbing recommended the entire line be replaced with root-resistant PVC pipes and be re-routed to avoid the tree roots as much as possible. The job would cost approximately $10,000, she was told. However, Linda was confident that she was covered under her home warranty policy.

Only she wasn’t.

“I called them, and anything outside the house wasn’t covered,” Linda said.

Not only would Linda be responsible for the entire $10,000 repair cost, but her sewer line, riddled with holes from the encroaching roots, was leaking raw sewage into her front yard. Desperate to have the repair done, Linda applied for financing, but was denied. Despite her job as a custodian at a local school, Linda’s income was limited.

Linda had done everything right, but she was still faced with a costly repair she couldn’t afford. She didn’t know where to turn.

But Danny, K&S Plumbing owner, hadn’t forgotten her. A network contractor for the NLC Service Line Warranty Program, Danny knew they had a program that could help Linda. So Danny contacted them and suggested Linda’s repair be covered under their Cares program, which offers no-cost, emergency repairs to qualifying residents who don’t have NLC Service Line Warranty Program plans.

They came through for Linda, and K&S Plumbing recently installed a brand-new sewage line at no cost to Linda.

“I’m getting rid of [her prior warranty company],” Linda said. She inquired that day about obtaining a NLC Service Line Warranty Program policy.

Contact us to learn more about how the National League of Cities (NLC) Service Line Warranty Program can benefit your community.


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In Honor of NLC Small Cities Month, We Are Highlighting Hendersonville, N.C. – a Small Community With Growing Population Turning to Tech to Manage Water

For Small Cities Month, the National League of Cities is exploring innovative projects and developments that bring will bring small cities to the next level and improve life for residents and business owners.

Hendersonville, N.C., is a small city, but its Water and Sewer Department serves a growing population as Henderson County sees an influx of residents – who also will receive their water from Hendersonville.

“I think this is the best water you can get,” Jeremy Poss, Technology and Metering Manager, said. “The water source is protected by tens of thousands of acres of national forest.”

Water from that unspoiled forest goes to a water treatment plant outside of Hendersonville, where it then is distributed to residents throughout the county. Henderson County is growing by leaps and bounds, and the water department is using the latest technology and implementing a water system master plan to meet milestones in increasing capacity.

Although Hendersonville itself is a small town of 17,000 residents, tens of thousands more live in Henderson County and that number is expected to increase. To provide clean, safe water, the Hendersonville water department employs a number of new technologies that help staff determine what areas need an increase in capacity and what areas are in need of repair.

When Hendersonville water employees make a repair in the system, they enter it into their work routing system and include that information on a “heat map” to see which areas have the most breaks.

“The more breaks you have, the more likely it is that the line will fail,” Poss said, noting the practice allows them to prioritize which areas to replace or upgrade lines and pumping stations.

Recently, the department began using a modeling program that takes into account a host of variables, including line size and population clusters, to determine where flow needs to be improved or increased. Poss explained that the model could account for developments not yet built so the water department could be proactive in upgrading the lines and preventing a low-flow problem before it could develop.

The water department also shares that information with the local fire department, so they can determine whether their hydrants have adequate flow. Not only does this make the community safer, but it also lowers insurance rates for homeowners.

Hendersonville also implemented Advanced Metering Infrastructure, allowing customers to see their usage online and even establish alert thresholds for usage and billing – something that improves customer satisfaction for the water department.

“[The customers] really like that,” Poss said.

Customers can register on AquaHawk and view their usage when it’s convenient for them, and some even use it to keep an eye on their homes when they’re out of town.

“We’ll get a call, ‘I think I left the outside bib faucet on,’” Poss said. “That happens more than you would think.”

That isn’t even the extent of the technology the Hendersonville water department employs – the department also uses a Geographic Information System to help map their system.

Hendersonville’s water department was established in the 1920s, and it wasn’t an easy task – locomotives and mule trains were needed to haul the pipe needed to carry water from the national forest to the community.

“It’s pretty wild, to see the pictures of the horse-drawn wagons that hauled the pipes,” Poss said.

Although the community’s water system has grown and modernized since then, that old system has still left its mark on Hendersonville.

“We still come across the wooden pipes, excavating downtown,” Poss said, noting that while the pipes remain in the ground, they are no longer part of the system.

Hendersonville has come a long way – from wooden pipes to high-tech models – and has partnered with the National League of Cities Service Line Warranties Program, administered by Utility Service Partners, a HomeServe company, to better educate their residents about their responsibility to maintain and repair their water and sewer service lines.

“A lot of people are surprised to learn that [service lines] are their responsibility,” Poss said. “They think we can come and locate and repair their leak, but we have no way to know where the lines even are. The line from the meter into the house is [the homeowner’s] responsibility.”

While the water department isn’t responsible for repairing leaking lines on private property, employees will attempt to help determine where a leak is, if possible. Only licensed plumbers are permitted to open the department’s meter boxes. The department encourages homeowners to install their own shutoff valve on their side of the meter and offers a discount for doing so.

Poss noted that many more homeowners are aware of their responsibilities since the SLWP began educational campaigns in the community. He also encourages residents to sign up for the service line warranties through SLWP.

“When you need it, it’s a good thing to have – I’ve heard a lot of stories,” he said, adding that he has looked into several other vendors offering similar products, but SLWP offers the best value for the price.

In addition to educating homeowners about their service line responsibilities, the Service Line Warranty Program offers warranties for service lines. The work is performed by licensed, local plumbers who will call the customer within one hour of filing a claim. For information about the program, contact us.


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A Community Effort Brings an All-Abilities Playground to Partner City Orem, Utah

The All Together Playground in Orem, Utah, is the first of its kind in Utah County and on the crest of a movement to make play accessible to all children and provide children with disabilities a way to play alongside their peers, and the playground’s story began when the city sought public input about making recreational improvements.

“We reached out through social media to find out what the needs and wants were in the community,” Steve Downs, Orem deputy city manager, said.

Two mothers, Katrina Bleyl and Mindy Gleason, whose daughters used wheelchairs, suggested an all-abilities playground.

“They didn’t have a local place to play,” Downs said. “They had to go to Salt Lake City to play [at an all-abilities playground].”

Bleyl and Gleason hoped for a wheelchair accessible swing set, but the city committed to an entire playground, at an estimated cost of $1.2 million. The city pledged $600,000, and the community rallied to raise the funds needed for the playground and local businesses donated materials and labor.

“Just knowing that it wouldn’t just affect (my daughter), but knowing that it would affect other kids in the area, and not just Orem,” Bleyl told the Daily Universe. “It just builds awareness and kindness, and all sorts of good stuff.”

As city officials began to work with the community to plan the park, they reached out to local elementary school pupils, asking them what they wanted in a park, while considering the needs of children of all abilities and Orem’s unique history.

Children asked for – and received – a pirate ship, space ship and castle, and Orem’s past is represented with a clock tower, train and mammoth-themed slide. Utah’s mountain peaks are invoked by the playground’s design, particularly nearby Mount Timpanogos. James C. Christensen, an award-winning artist, author and Orem resident, created a one-of-a-kind mural for the playground.

“He actually just passed from cancer – he was going through that, and he spent some of his final days painting for us,” Downs said.

Most importantly, those planning the park listened to families with children impacted with mobility and neurological issues. One of the items included a fence around the playground to keep children on the autism spectrum safe.

“Some of them are runners, and parents were worried they could run into the parking lot or the street,” Downs said. “They wanted some type of protection, a border between the parking lot and the playground.”

Other considerations include switching to a soft rubber matting instead of a mulch that could cause issues for those children with mobility or sensory issues, making the walkways wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs and including ramps instead of stairs.

“We wanted everything to be without barriers,” Downs said. “There are no stairs; we have ramps the whole way up to the highest point. There isn’t anywhere they can’t go.”

One of the primary pushes was to design a playground that would be attractive to all children while allowing children of all abilities to play side-by-side with their peers.

To encourage cooperative play, games such as the NEOS 360 – an interactive game system that improves auditory and spatial awareness and peripheral vision – were incorporated. The playground also features zip lines with chairs alongside traditional set ups so children of all abilities can race one another.

“One of the big pushes is to allow children with disabilities to socialize with their peers,” Downs said. “This playground allows them to do the same activities beside their friends.”

When the community was called upon for volunteers to build the playground, more than 4,000 showed up – almost a thousand more than city leaders had asked for, and Habitat for Humanity donated the tools used to build the playground. A local Boy Scout, Leo Parcell, made 50 sawhorses for the playground’s construction, and volunteers worked from sunup to sundown for seven straight days.

“All of them took time away from work and family to build this for our children,” Downs said.

The Daily Herald wrote an editorial praising the effort, noting “Many local children suffer from physical disabilities, while many others fall on the autism spectrum. Traditional playgrounds oftentimes are not equipped to provide the same play experience for children who must use wheelchairs or walkers or who deal with certain sensory issues.

“There are a handful of nonprofit organizations that have recognized this, and have created all-ability facilities for the use of their own patients and clients. Now, thankfully, we have a local city stepping forward and recognizing the need for a public space that offers those same benefits.”

Downs was moved by watching Brinley Bleyl play in the park shortly after completion.

“She got behind the wheel [of the pirate ship], she was giving orders and you could see that she knew what she wanted to do,” he said. “She was participating in imaginative role play and she had a story for the ship. She’s always had this imagination, but she couldn’t express it this way before. And we were able to take away that physical barrier.”

“Play is called the work of children. We believe that children of all abilities deserve an opportunity to play,” Orem Mayor Richard Brunst told Utah Valley 360. “That’s what this playground is all about. Families, individuals, college students, city staff, businesses and residents have all volunteered time and money to help build this great and beautiful playground with love. All people need to feel love. I hope that all the love that has been put into this park will be a reminder to the children who play here how much we love and appreciate them.”

Downs noted the city encourages the local school district to utilize the park, especially those classes that include children with mobility issues or who are neurodiverse and he enjoys driving past the park and seeing school buses in the parking lot.

“This playground was founded in the minds of our young children and built by their parents and neighbors,” Downs said. “At the end of the day, the community built this for their kids, their neighbors and their friends’ kids.”

Utility Service Partners, a HomeServe USA company, was one of the playground’s sponsors. Utility Service Partners administers the National League of City’s Service Line Warranty Program, which provides emergency repair warranties and education on service line responsibilities at no cost to cities. Qualifying cities can receive royalties that can go toward similar and other programs and needs. For information on how the Service Line Warranty Program can benefit your community, contact us.