Paul Rolly: Now Salt Lake City is peddling private insurance

By PAUL ROLLY

The Salt Lake Tribune

Published: April 28, 2014 11:12AM
Updated: April 29, 2014 11:34AM
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Paul Rolly

Based on letters sent to customers recently from the Public Utilities Department, Salt Lake City appears to be the marketing agent for a private insurance company in Connecticut.

The letters, which were sent by Public Utilities Director Jeff Niermeyer, say that the sewer line from the main line in the street to a home is the homeowners’ responsibility if it breaks.

Estimates for such repairs range from $10,000 to $20,000.

The letters then tell homeowners about an insurance program they can sign up for through HomeServe, a national insurance company in Norwalk, Conn., that can provide coverage for broken sewer lines.

Homeowners also received an accompanying ad from Home­Serve offering the insurance service. Plans cost $6.99 a month, $20.97 a quarter or $83.88 a year.

Not a bad gig when you have a city’s public utility hawking your product for you.

Niermeyer’s letter notes that HomeServe is “a premier provider of emergency home repair services, providing over 1,500,000 homeowners across the U.S. with service and repair plans.”

Art Raymond, spokesman for Mayor Ralph Becker, says homeowners are made aware the insurance plan is optional, and they can seek other insurance plans if they wish.

The HomeServe plan is merely a suggestion and that company was chosen as the city’s recommended server after an extensive bidding process. The city will receive a 10.5 percent commission from HomeServe for the insurance plans it sells to Salt Lake City Public Utilities customers.

Raymond says that money will go into an account dedicated to providing utility assistance to low- and fixed-income residents.

Speaking of utilities • You probably noticed recently the cones and barricades on Foothill Drive, near Foothill Village, while construction crews dig up the street.

You may have noticed the same thing at the same location several months ago, along with traffic-slowing construction crews at that spot several months before that — and several months before that.

In fact, for years it’s been déjà vu all over again, as Yogi Berra would say.

The barricades, seen by frustrated commuters over and over again, have been placed by the Utah Department of Transportation because Foothill Drive is a state road. But it has been at the request of the Salt Lake City Public Utilities Department, which has done the construction work that has taken place time and time again.

Raymond said the problem is the 1940s-era 32-inch water lines there have not been replaced despite increased demand. So the city is forced to dig up the street and make repairs every time a line breaks.

He said the city has a schedule to replace outdated water lines. The problematic location on Foothill Drive is set for a complete makeover this summer, Raymond said.

Until then, if there is another break requiring more construction and traffic delays, north-south commuters can always use an alternate route on 1300 East.

prolly@sltrib.com