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Change in sewer protection plan could save city $80,000

Dec 7, 2012 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer

The Riverton City Council voted to eliminate the Sewer Lateral Protection Plan program that serves 1,223 homes in Riverton. City administrator Steven Weaver suggested the city sign up instead for the National League of Cities Service Line Warranty Program.

The SLPP originally was adopted to provide citizens with repairs on backed up sewers. Currently, Riverton citizens pay roughly $3.36 a month for the SLPP through their water and garbage bills.

The monthly cost could increase under the new warranty program.

"(NLC) said the average for Wyoming is $6 and a lot of it depends on the system," Weaver said. "If they have a lot of people on there, every time they're going in there they have to replace the whole lateral line instead of just reparing it."

Backing away from SLPP

City staff members and city attorney Rick Sollars wanted to know what sort of damage would be repaired under the SLPP.

The SLPP, which was originally adopted in 2007, presented various contradictions. The plan said it would clean up after a back up, disregarding the cause, but then not be liable for flood damage or be responsible for replacing damaged property.

When the city discussed the SLPP earlier in the year, Sollars asked, "Does it mean vacuum the water and wastewater from the carpet or does it mean replace the carpet and any damaged drywall?"

Under the SLPP, the city is not required to replace equipment, carpet or drywall.

The council members also questioned SLPP's limitations such as not being able to opt out of the program and not being able to request service within 30 days of when the property owner is enrolled.

NLC's rules

Under the NLC program, the city would no longer provide clean up because that would be covered by the homeowner's insurance. The league also provides coverage of up to $4,000 for each incident. The NLC would also restore any basic landscaping that is affected.

"How much liability are we accepting?" Weaver asked. "Are we accepting more than we need to?"

The city staff reported that more than $80,000 had been lost by the city under the SLPP program.

The council members said if the city chooses to stick to the SLPP, the monthly charge would have to increase anyway just to break even.

"If we're going to have a program it needs to be paying for itself," Weaver said.

Council members also said changes needed to be made because private sewer laterals have to be dealt with carefully, and citizens are subsidizing the program without being aware of what cleanup services are covered by the plan.

Mayor Ron Warpness contacted the NLC, and he said Utility Service Partners, the providers of the service through the NLC, would pay the city royalties for each person who signs up for the program.

"If there's some way that we can get a little bit of discount and pass that on to the citizens then that would be appropriate for us to consider," Warpness said.

Councilman Richard Gard agreed it would be better to sign up for the NLC plan, but he was concerned that no interior assistance would be available, and if repairs cost more than $4,000 then homeowners would be responsible for the remainder of the cost.

NLC currently services four cities in Wyoming and four more in Colorado.

The final vote was unanimous, with all council members and the mayor agreeing to terminate the SLPP.

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