Utilities Service Partners representative Dennis Lyons flew in from Pennsylvania on Monday morning to greet but one question at an Albany City Council work session: Why?
Lyons’ company is the administrator of the National League of Cities Service Line Warranty Program, which offers homeowners insurance for issues that may occur with the water and sewer lines for which they’re responsible. In Albany, that responsibility begins at the water meter. For sewer services, it’s from the main to where the line enters the home.
Lyons listed the company’s accomplishments, noting its 95 percent customer approval rating and an A-plus rating from the Better Business Bureau. It earned the endorsement of the National League of Cities in 2010 and the endorsement of 16 league cities, including Oregon, since then.
“If this is an insurance program for the homeowner, why is the city involved?” Councilor Mike Sykes asked, a question echoed by several other council members.
“This came about at the National League of Cities level because a couple of companies that offer these services existed and the National League of Cities wanted one they could put their name on,” Lyons said. “They did the research and vetting and we were the company they chose.”
The program works as a partnership model. Cities allow the company to mail out letters using the city’s logo — a sticking point for Councilor Alex Johnson II.
“My concern with the way it’s structured is the city logo is telling them we’re OK with this insurance company contacting you” Johnson said. “You’re basically telling the citizens of this city we love these people, these people are OK with us. I’m uncomfortable with that.”
The service line warranty program, according to Lyons, gives homeowners up to $8,500 per repair and the program has no deductibles. Work is done by local contractors and the city earns money for every customer who purchases the insurance.
Questions about liability arose with deputy city attorney Joseph Allison noting that it was possible for the city to be named in a lawsuit should a repair go awry — but he added that he would need more information to determine if the city would actually be liable.
More information is what Johnson and other councilors asked for as well before making a decision to partner with the program.
Lyon agreed to provide further information and noted that “it’s never an overnight process” when a city opts to partner with the program.