MORRISBRUG – There’s no insurance against confusion especially when it comes in the form of a letter endorsed and emblazoned with the South Dundas logo.
Municipal councillors were left answering questions when residents received mail offering the opportunity to sign up for water and sewer line insurance from Service Line Warranties of Canada (SLWC).
The confusion arose because most residents believed their home insurance policy already covered water and sewer line breaks, but as CAO Shannon Geraghty pointed out, that isn’t always the case.
“What a lot of insurance companies do not cover is the actual line going from the house to the curb stop,” he said.
This can result in repair bills between $1,000 and $5,000.
SLWC offers full coverage with no deductible and “all contractors are local contractors and they usually respond within 24 hours,” according to Geraghty.
South Dundas agreed to the program in October 2018 in part because it operates in more than 35 other Ontario municipalities and is endorsed by the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO). South Dundas also stands to receive a five per cent kick back from SLWC on the number of subscriptions annually.
Many of the councillors were unaware that such a program existed and were left with few answers when they received calls from confused residents.
Geraghty took full responsibility for the “ambush.”
“I wasn’t expecting the letter to go out as quickly as they did. I wasn’t given the heads up by Service Line Warranties Canada that they were going out,” he said, while pointing out the program is optional.
Deputy-Mayor Kirsten Gardner took issue with the municipality endorsing the service and a specific company.
“Out in the public there is a lot of confusion. They think this directive is coming from this council and I don’t like it,” she said. “Anytime I’ve been employed by the government, you don’t recommend a specific company.”
Geraghty answered that it is a selective service and that it has been properly “vetted through a municipal agency, adopted by them and endorsed by them.”
Councillor Don Lewis also wasn’t thrilled with being put in a compromising position.
“To be blindsided from nowhere I definitely didn’t appreciate it,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it whenever I read the letter.”
Mayor Steven Byvelds also took issue with the endorsement, but did admit getting out of the three-year contract was unlikely.
“I can understand why the service is out there, but I have a hard time for us as a municipality to endorse that,” he said. “I highly doubt we can get out of everything. I think we need to caution our residents.”
Byvelds also wasn’t comfortable with the potential municipal liability.
“If something happens, we’re going to be back on the hook. Just watch that happen.
We need to be a lot more cautious when we get into these kinds of agreements,” he said.
The municipality has posted an update for residents with questions at www.southdundas.com along with a direct line to SLWC (1-844-616-8444) for further inquiries.