For folks that use Cape Charles as a part-time residence, the winters can be dangerous. In the case of Jeff and Jenifer Dawson, they experienced a water leak of almost 300,000 gallons at their property due to frozen pipes this past January. The Town then hammered them with a water and sewer bill of $5,669.64. Under existing law, the town can credit $3,397.75 for the sewer portion. Mr. Dawson has requested relief from the water usage charges, as they were not notified of the leak after the water was turned off.
Public works incompetence added to the problem, as they never notified the owners of the leak. The staff report notes, “This was an oversight on the part of the Town.” This oversight led to over $8,000 in additional damages to the home. Below is the letter the homeowners sent to the town:
Hi Bob. You left me a message and I’ve tried calling you back a couple times and missed you, so I thought it might be best to email. I am the owner of 212 Monroe.
I suffered a great amount of loss from a burst pipe, resulting in a shutdown of my water, failed furnace and loss of heat. My radiators then froze and cracked, creating additional damage in almost every room.
According to Dave Fauber, my water was probably turned off during the first week of January.
On February 14th, I came down to inspect my house finding that it had major water damage. As a result of the 308,000 gallons of water that entered my home, the sump pump burned up and the basement had over 2 feet of standing water in it. The entire house was wet from the water sitting in the basement and throughout the home. The amount of moisture resulted in heavy loss that would not have occurred if I had dealt with it immediately. Mold was on the walls, mold was present on furniture, couches and mattresses. The moisture was so great that it even rusted all of the hinges on shutters and doors. Unfortunately, my insurance doesn’t cover mold related loss including contents. If I had have been notified, I would have came down the same day and dealt with the problem.
The water sat in my house for approximately 5 weeks without my knowledge. The moisture and mold damage resulted in out of pocket loss of approximately $8000. The scope of work is much larger due to the amount of time the water sat in my house. In addition to this, I will have additional loss of use and missed work in order to deal with the scope of work and replacement of all the things I lost due to the mold and damage. It’s really a tragic loss.
I have visited the utilities department twice and the first time I spoke to Dave. We met on 2/15/18. Dave stated that I should have been notified. I have a screened in porch and there wasn’t even a notice on my door. I asked Dave why there wasn’t notification. His exact comment was, “The word I got was the Billy Powel turned off the water. Billy forgot to tell Kathy so Kathy never contacted you.” I told Dave that the amount of damage I received from not notifying me could have been prevented.
Billy didn’t even put a notice on my door. Dave said, “Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t , I just know that he turned the water off.”
On my second visit to the utility department, about 2 weeks ago, Dave was not there but Kathy Fraas was. I explained my situation to Kathy and she was quite apologetic. She did agree that it was unacceptable that I was not notified. That is standard procedure. She said that if she had been told, she would have contacted me.
I’m out of a lot of money through this error and I currently have a water bill and although it is reduced, I do not think it’s fair. From what I’ve read online regarding Virginia Utility policies, I should have been notified, at least by mail. I’m not asking to be reimbursed for the thousands I’ve lost from the notification failure but I would like to be forgiven for the current balance of water for that month.
I’m not sure who I should talk to or meet with but would be willing to meet with any branch within the town or state to discuss.
At Thursday’s Regular Town Council Meeting, council voted to rescind the overage charges, however, the Mirror could not get an exact figure, and if it included the entire $5,669.64. While Mayor Proto and Councilman Buchholz stated that the situation was “disturbing”, interim town manager Bob Panek offered, “It just fell through the cracks.”
Public works director Dave Fauber, when questioned about what happened, could not confirm that there was an attempt to contact the Dawsons. As an excuse, he noted that town offices were closed the day the water was shut off.
UPDATE: It has been confirmed the town will rescind the entire charge.
Ed DeAngelis says
After reading about the extended damage due to lack of notification to the home owner..I had a situation .it seems there was a leak at the meter and the water was cut off by the town meter reader,no notification was given nor a notice left.Lucky for me l was home.when I went to the town to ask why Kathy. Had no idea and it seems no one knew anything….MY POINT this happened 2015…ehen the info was pass to Kathy as to the reason for the shut …it was sever all hours after the fact…my comment to all concerned at the town water dept was HOW ABOUT MAKING HOME OWNER AWARE A LITTLE COURTESY GO S ALONG WAY…Town still seems o forget the rights of TAX PAYERS!
Gene Kelly says
Don’t get me started…..
Perhaps the owners could hire somebody as a caretaker. I don’t think it’s all on the town.
Charles Taylor says
The history of this incident aside, it is prudent and advisable to install a “whole house” shut off valve to prevent negative surprises like the one you described. Shut the water off as you leave the house for an extended period as a matter of self preservation.
Colleen Kelley says
I lived in an old house in Cape Charles for many years with radiator heat. If you turn off the water you don’t have heat. These are old houses and no easy solution.
Beach Jazz says
Better yet, pay a plumber to blow out the pipes. We had a shut-off valve, emptied the pipes, and, when we turned on the water, we had an instant flood. Getting the plumber will cost less than $200 and you have no worries.
Colleen Kelley says
What plumber…….ha! That is a lot to each time you leave and come back.
Colleen Kelley says
It seems the town will contact you if you owe them money or your grass is too high!!! In fact you will receive a certified letter immediately. Ha….bet you cannot guess how I know this. The water system was flushed two nights in a row while we were serving and open for business. Sorry we didn’t read it anywhere or see the sign on the highway…you see sometimes being busy with a business you miss these things especially if you don’t make it out to the highway that day. The courtesy of a phone call is quick and easy and I don’t understand why they cannot put themselves in our shoes for a moment and see how lack of communication can have drastic outcome. It feels as if the taxpayers are working for the town.
Jenn Dawson/owner says
Thank you Colleen. That is exactly the situation our house was radiators so we could never turn our water off our furnace was updated serviced regularly actually three weeks before my last visit at the home. Regardless the town had a duty to inform per municipal laws that our attorney has advised us on.Falling through the cracks is not acceptable.
Radiator furnace is a close system all the time .If water to the house is turned off the furnace still work’s. Ask a furnace company or look it up .There have ben water leaks at this house for last two winters THAT IS NOT ACCEPTABLE….
Jenn Dawson/owner says
Tom not sure of you knowledge base but you are absolutely incorrect! We did not have a water leak in his house last winter unless you paid the bill and we’re not aware of it. The only other leak on this house was when we first purchased it and the waterline to the second floor running the exterior side of the home had a washer dryer unit which we just connected to the plumber did not shut off the water correctly hence the exterior pipe sprung a leak.
Charles Taylor says
I think it unfair to place the onus on the Town to minimize these events. We, as homeowners, choose to be part time or full time residents. It is the owners’ responsibility to put a system in place to avoid or minimize such an event. Remember, as part time residents, we do not check in or check out with the Town as we arrive or depart. This issue rests squarely on the shoulders of the homeowner; pay somebody to check on your property.
It sucks when you own a home where you don’t live, and things happen in your absence. Ultimately, it’s the responsibility of the homeowner to make sure the status of their homes are monitored and available precautions are taken to avoid damage in their absence. Over this past winter, we noticed that a pipe to a neighbor’s outdoor shower burst and there was a large ice sculpture stuck to the side of their home from the leaking water, that subsequently froze. We called a town police officer – on a Sunday – who called a town maintenance worker – again, on a Sunday – who addressed the situation. The town officials are diligent about assisting homeowners with problems like this, but at the end of the day, homeowners are responsible for the maintenance of their homes.
Madam X says
Mr. Creed, what a shame your “headline” included the phrase “Cape Charles incompetence.” That only instigates negative comments! Lord knows there are those who love to find fault and you feed them. Are you proud of that?
I encourage all to sign up to receive the e-notifications from the town. If you aren’t aware of this great service, make it your business check it out. I’m sure you know how to contact the town office.
Maybe The Mirror could provide a link in its next breaking news.
Note: Oh, guess what? Here’s a Breaking News article from March 2016 about Nixle: http://www.capecharlesmirror.com/news/cape-charles-community-alerts-with-nixle/. You want to trash the Mirror for stating the obvious, go ahead, we’ll always give you your say. But at least try and get your facts straight.
Mike Kuzma, Jr. says
Government serves the People.
NOT the other way around.
“Fell through the cracks”
Try that with your tax payments.
You do not need a plumber to turn your water off each time you leave town. Turn it off at the street. At most you will need pliers or a crescent wrench. I believe the city can do that for you as well. Don’t depend on the utilities dept to call you if there is a problem. That will never happen
When our house was empty and water was shutoff for a couple years. We still had to pay the base water, sewer and trash for every month it was off. Plus late fees and interest. They did not relieve us of a penny of the 5000 we had to pay to move back in. We didn’t even use the services all that time. It’s a shame they weren’t notified, but they did use the water. Just saying. And it’s not hard to be nice to the fulltime neighbors and have them check on your home when weather is extreme.