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.