The Decherd Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted on Jan. 13 against participating in a program where residents would be able to purchase special insurance to protect them from paying excessive water-leak costs.
The insurance would only cover residential lines, and residents would have to pay a fee for the insurance, which Water Department Superintendent Eric Bradford said most would never use.
Vice Mayor Richard Gulley said the city water lines would not be included in the program, and city government would not benefit from being in it.
The board voted 3-0 not to participate in the program. Mayor Michael Gillespie and Alderman Tammy Holt were absent from the meeting.
Bradford said the city now gives residents financial breaks when they have excessive leaks. He added that fixed-income residents who did not participate in the insurance program because it would increase their monthly bills would no longer be able to be given financial breaks for excessive leaks because the city would have offered insurance.
Bradford recently used an example of how the city handles excessive leaks.
He said that if a leak accumulated a $1,000 water bill, the city would settle for $500 to pay off the amount.
He had provided the board with information from a company, ServLine, which offers insurance policies to municipalities where each resident would pay $2.50 per month with the insurance covering leaks up to $2,500.
He said residents would pay an average monthly water bill amount, determined by a customer’s monthly bills during a year-long time span for an excessive leak with the insurance in place.
However, Bradford had said the board should consider other side effects.
He said most city residents never have to deal with water leaks anyway, which should be taken into account.
Gulley had asked at the Dec. 9, 2019, meeting specifically what the insurance covers.
Bradford said it would cover residences from their meters to their homes.
However, Gulley said that he thought the city would incur some kind of protection via the insurance. He said without the insurance covering water mains and other city-owned infrastructure, he had reservations about Decherd getting involved in the program.
Gulley said that, to residents on fixed incomes, $2.50 a month would be a much greater percentage than it would be for others who have larger homes with higher water bills.
Bradford said the city recently adjusted its rate structure so elderly residents get a financial break. He added that adding a $2.50 monthly amount to those bills would negate the intent of the adjustments.