2014-10-17 / Community

Officials warn residents about mailing

Some residents receive offer of water line protection – for a price
By Alex Acquisto
Staff Writer

KENNEBUNKPORT — A number of Kennebunkport residents have recently received a mailing that urges them to pay for protection against faulty water service lines on their property.

A payment plan is detailed at the bottom of the mailing.

The document, which appeared to be a standard water district mailing to some, raised suspicion in others.

“A resident brought it in who knew that they were not near a waterline and that it did not apply to them,” said Laurie Smith, Kennebunkport town manager.

The mailing tells recipients, “You don’t expect anything to happen to the water service line that brings fresh water into your home from your water utility or private well. But, age, ground shifting and tree roots can all contribute to the deterioration and potential failure of the line. For just $5.49 a month you can get protection for the exterior water line on your property with this optional coverage.”

The notice continues, “This information is being sent to you because it’s important that you know about your responsibility as a homeowner, as you can protect your finances against the cost of an expensive emergency repair.”

Recipients are given three payment options, ranging from the monthly payment of $5.49 to a lump sum annual payment of $65.88.

“It certainly isn’t from us,” said Norm Labbe, superintendent of the Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, Wells Water District.

Smith also confirmed, “It’s nothing that we’re endorsing or sending out.”

Town hall administration on Wednesday, Oct. 8 issued an official notice on the town’s website advising residents that the mailing was not from a local entity. “We wanted to alert people that it may appear that it’s coming from the utility or the town, but that it was coming from neither,” Smith said.

Town administration have since investigated the mailing and determined that it is not a scam, Smith said. “It is a legitimate company that is selling insurance policies,” Smith said.

The company responsible for the mailings is Home Serve USA Corp., a Connecticut-based insurance firm accredited by the Better Business Bureau.

“This is the first time in recent years that such a company has done a widespread mailing to many of our customers, and to many people that aren’t even supplied by us or by any other water utility,” Labbe said. “I am not sure where they get their address list from. That company is actually legitimate, but unimpressive with their sale tactics.”

Because the mailings offer water line insurance, but physically resemble a water bill, some residents, Smith and Labbe said, have been complaining that the document is misleading.

Labbe believes that this mailing and similar ones will prove difficult for elderly residents to understand.

Further, the corrections and clarifications have been made via the Internet, where some elderly people may not see them.

“The elderly aren’t usually looking to websites for information. As a result they may be more susceptible to these tactics than younger folks,” Labbe said.

As for the water line insurance advertised in the mailing, Labbe said, “Unless someone knows that they have an ancient galvanized water service, it is not worth the money.

“It’s simply buying insurance for something that happens very rarely. That said, it should be noted that this type of insurance is not a scam, as many water utilities have similar water service line insurance programs. This particular company, however, uses an approach that is, at best, misleading.”

For questions or concerns, call town hall at 985-4201 or visit its website, www.kennebunkme.us. Visit the water district’s website at www.kkw.org or call 985-3385.

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