Monday, July 23, 2012

You Can't Fight City Hall (If they won't fight back)

The rainy season was coming to an end when escrow closed on our house. The irrigation system was turned off and it took me a couple of weeks to get around to setting the  timer up and get the sprinklers working.
IMG_0464 I noticed that there was a huge leak in the main irrigation line, resulting in streams of water gushing into the gutter and very little water hitting the actual lawn. After some digging, I found a break in the pipe under the concrete walkway to our house. It just happened to be directly under the portion of the walkway that had been cut out and replaced by the City while installing our water meter.
As I had my head buried under the walkway, trying to inspect the damage, a neighbor walked by and commented "Oh, the City did that. The guy who lived here before was fighting with them over it". "Hmm.. " I thought, "Nice of him to tell me".
For weeks, I stewed about it, but procrastinated. Rather than deal with the problem, I wandered into the front yard every morning to hand water all the dry spots that resulted from the leak.
My sprained ankle
     Things came to a head a week or so ago when I slipped on the wet grass and slid down a three foot raised portion of the lawn while watering. I landed face first in a puddle of water, The hose landed on top of me, running full force over my back. I sprained my ankle on the way down and was unable to move for several minutes.
       When I was finally able to regain both my footing and composure, I hobbled back to the house. At this point, I noticed a tag hanging on my front door. It was another day before I had the time or inclination to retrieve it.
photo-2       I pulled the tag off the door the next day. It was a message from the City. They wanted to inform me that according to the data they were collecting from my newly installed meter, they suspected that I had some sort of leak. If I wanted to call their water conservation department, they would be happy to help me determine the cause.
     OK. Enough! I spent they next couple of days preparing a testy memo to the City with photos to document the damage. The memo ended with a polite, but firm demand that the City repair my pipeline.
     Last Thursday, I finally went down to the City Water Division (several miles from City Hall).
With my testy memo in hand and having mentally rehearsed all the potential "let me talk to your supervisor" scenarios that might result, I walked in ready for battle.
      "I'm not sure who I need to talk to, but my irrigation system was damaged when you installed my water meter". The woman working at the counter looked at me and said. "You just talk to me, I'll make sure it's taken care of." She asked me for my address, looked it up on a computer and determined when the meter was installed and identified the construction company that had done the installation. "I'm emailing them right now. They'll come out and look at it."
"I have pictures" I said, "I have a memo!" She stared at me for a second, "No, I don't need any of that. They will take care of it and they will respond quickly" I walked out mildly disappointed that my righteous indignation would have to wait for another day.
     As promised, a man from the construction company that installed the water meter arrived at my house early the next day. He looked at the damage and said "Oh, I don't think that was us, this is a real Micky Mouse job. Let me call my boss and double check". He went to his truck to make the call and was back at my door a few minutes later. "It was us!" he said, "I'm sorry we did such a lousy job. I'll be back Monday and take care of it."
     Sure enough, he was back this morning, and spent two hours digging out the meter box, replacing the damaged pipe and replacing the meter cover. He even spent some time cleaning and adjusting the sprinklers that had been affected by the leak.
      It would have been more fun to write about feckless bureaucrats indifferent to my suffering and outrage. Alas, I was denied the opportunity to rage against the City at all. I have been robbed of the chance to regale others with stories about how I "let em have it!" There would be no long and winding accounts about being sent from one department to another. Most importantly, they have denied me access to the moral high ground.
     Like they say, you can't fight City Hall.

1 comment:

  1. That is good news - except for your sprained ankle and the foot looks bad!