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Some Things Just Don’t Go Away

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  The entire article, blog and comments concerning the sewer main back-up referenced in the sign posted in front of our home has been moved to the ‘Consumer Beware’ section of this newspaper. I can not emphasize enough how important the outcome of this situation is to every customer serviced by the new City of O’Fallon in-house maintenance program. Readers outside O'Fallon - this can happen with your local government too!


  When the City of O’Fallon elected officials decided to bring the sewer maintenance program service in-house, they promised that it would be a cost-saving venture that would be in the best interest of the customers in serves. I’m not up-to-par on the cost-savings end of the plan, but the customers it serves have had a dangerous precedent set in the denial of claims filed after the main sewer line clogged with tree roots and backed up into at least three homes off Brookfield Lane. It's apparent that the maintenance staff knows what they are doing. However, it appears that the elected officials did not do their 'due diligence' and purchase insurance that protects the consumers from damages caused by errors in their system.


  Tree roots do not grow overnight, yet the city states, that according to their records, the line was last serviced in June of 2009. TAccording to City of O'Fallon sewer maintenance personnel, tree roots caused the blockage in the main sewer line some 40 yards down from our home. There were so many tree roots that the service truck had to return a second time to clean the pipe out after it was scoped! And, this is not the first time the sewer line blocked up in that very location. Still, the city's insurance company - Travelers Insurance claims the city is not responsible for the claim because they did not have prior knowledge it could happen? 


  At first we were overcome by shock and emotions. To experience such a loss is one thing, but to watch all the connected parties - The City of O'Fallon (based on the decision of the Mayor and every elected councilman) Travelers Insurance and Metlife Insurance - admit to the  cause of the blockage, but still deny financial responsibility sets off a number of emotions and utter confusion.

  Add the fact that I have had homeowners insurance with MetLife for a number of years. I purchased the policy over the phone and know I requested complete coverage for my home. I believed I had "complete coverage" and they led me to believe I have "complete coverage" to sell a policy.  No agent has ever contacted me after the sale of the policy. I have never been advised differently. I now discover, I never had a copy of the policy. What I have is a "Declaration" page.

  Then something like this happens, and I’m told I needed special sewer back-up insurance provision.  Now, MetLife claims they will not cover the damages. This is wrong! Sources advise me that it is MetLife’s job to pay the claim and then go after the City of O’Fallon for the damages. I don’t setup the system. I just pay the premiums, like every one of you. I expect the system to work in instances like these. Otherwise, why do we pay for insurance? (I wish I had a dime for every time someone said that to me this past week!)

  Now here we sit…a couple weeks away from Thanksgiving and the beginning of the holiday season…and our home is in a shambles. The sign actually covers up some of the mess!

 

This is the way any customer serviced by the City of O’Fallon sewer maintenance department will be treated if the main sewer line backs up into your home. They can not discriminate between one claim and another.  Please pay attention, Follow the story through to the outcome. Check your homeowners insurance policies for sewer back-up insurance and keep all storage in plastic totes! Last, but not least…remember the words that a very wise person shared with me since this disaster…

Insurance companies are in the business to say “NO”.  

   After the election in April, we changed our focus and went to work on growing our world-wide readership to our site. (280,000+ readers in October alone) During this time, we received letters/e-mails asking if we were still watching what the city officials were doing. We ignored them.We thought everyone was content with the operations of city government.

  Since we published this story,  we have heard from many, many people. We have fielded questions like:

"Do you think the City of O'Fallon misses your attention? "

"The Lord DOES Work in Mysterious ways. Do you think this is a 'sign' that you need to return focus to the decisions of the elected officials in O'Fallon?"

"Are our elected officials capable of making good, sound business decisions for the best interests of the people they serve?" The elected officials are poor-mouthing the public and employees about everything, yet escalating  their costs of claims by forcing the issue into further mediation. No matter the outcome, the city has a $25K deductable. At this point, the claim is no where near that amount.

And the most interesting of question...

"Are they doing this to you because you've exposed so many of their wrong-doings in the past?"

  We've also heard many complaints from others over the past week since this nightmare hit our lives.  You name it...small businesses hassled with signage problems; the hypocrisy of the "Keep It In the O" philosophy on the part of the City of O'Fallon; the stupidity of the billboard on Highway 70; nepotism and preferencial treatment of employees/friends/vendors within city hall...I think we've become the catch-all for everyone's disgust and fear of dealing with city hall...again!  Yes, we appear to be back to the days of old.

    We're listening...and we're back. We'll keep everyone posted, for we will not back off from doing the right thing.

  And to all our readers outside of O'Fallon...this can happen when any government forgets it's focus of the people first. Watch your local governments.

UPDATE:  Monday, November 9, 2009 - Metlife Insurance Claims Adjuster Susan Wade returned my call and informed me that they have formally denied the claim stating that after reviewing the finding from the claims adjuster, it is the City's responsibility.

  Additionally, it has been discovered that we did not have 'sewer back-up' insurance coverage - something I never even knew existed until this incident. After the mingling of words, it has become clear that the only assistance we can expect to receive from our homeowners insurance company, Metlife, (at this time)  will be a copy of our policy - something we apparently have never seen before. (What I thought was my policy, was actually a "Declaration".)

  I also found out that the reason we have never had contact from a Metlife agent to explain this to us was because we were lumped into some 'group' - a group name of which I've never heard before in my life. With no agent assigned to our policy, how were we supposed to understand what was or was not covered in the "A PLUS" Coverage we've been purchasing year after year? We believe that no matter what the incident - there will be a reason why an insurance company will not cover it.

  Also, is this why a copy of the insurance policy is not furnished with the "Declaration" at renewal dates? Perhaps it's a deterent in letting consumers know just how little they really do receive in a policy...and an 'out' for insurance companies to pay claims after the sale of a policy? PLEASE KNOW...even if you were provided an agent, it does not matter what the agent TELLS you...it's what's written in the policy...that you may have not ever received.

Please remember this the next time a Travelers or MetLife Insurance agent tries to sell you a policy. It's the service AFTER the sale that is clearly questionable!  Don't believe that 'complete coverage' means coverage for any incident!

No matter the insurance company, obtain and READ your homeowner policy! Don't 'think' you know what's in it...READ IT PLEASE! 

  Ms Wade states we should have called and asked if we had the coverage. That's a hard thing to realize when, as a consumer, we never knew it existed and the insurance company never made the effort to inform us.  Now that's friendly , professional customer claim service at it's best!

  After the normal weekly mailing to our subscription list, this story will be moved to the "Consumer Beware" section of the newspaper. Trust, we have only just begun...however are limited on just how much we can share at this time.   

NOTE: Our family appreciates each and every phone call, visit and blogged comment left on the site in support of our efforts. However, I can not authorize the publishing of any comment that contains profanity or personal attacks against the elected officials in their personal lives. I ask that all comments remain issue-related and civilized. Seventeen comments have been excluded from publishing for these reasons, to date.