The concerns and questions of a Brazil resident have prompted Mayor Tom Arthur to clarify what happens when they report leaks.
In a letter appearing in the Opinion page of the Jan. 31 edition of The Brazil Times, Vermont St. resident Forest Swan expressed hisdispleasure with the city's methods of handling a leak that he said left him and his neighbors without enough water to bathe and cook for much of the weekend.
Swan told The Brazil Times Wednesday afternoon that thousands of gallons of water went to waste as the water was rushing out of the leak behind his neighbor's house similar to opening a fire hydrant.
But, he said, when the leak was reported to the City, a city employee indicated that Arthur allegedly said he wasn't going to pay employees overtime wages for the leak repair.
While residents around his area were forced to buy water and couldn't bathe, Swan said his chief concern was safety. A nearby neighbor with mobility issues wasn't able to get out and water was freezing at the intersection of Lambert and Compton streets, he said.
While he could hear motorists having problems due to the leak, he was concerned that emergency vehicles could have problems there as well; possibly endangering someone's life. And with a lack of water, he also wondered how firefighters would be able to competently battle a blaze if a fire broke out in the area.
"There was too much undue stress put on a lot of people in a large area. It just seems like (Arthur) left everybody hanging for this period of time," Swan said.
"He's got to think of the safety factor. Common sense just didn't rule there."
Swan described the weekend without water as an "inexcusable predicament," especially when it only took a maximum of two or three hours to repair the next business day. If it was one person's house, he said he might understand the choice to wait to make the repair, but not when it was affecting such an extensive area.
"The only thing that really made me mad is the attitude of the Mayor. It seemed he didn't care," Swan said. "To me, you don't do people that way."
Although Arthur said he has been unable to speak with Swan in person, he is eager to address his and other residents-- concerns.
"We can't just take a backhoe up there and start digging," he said. Locating lines is the first step before tackling line repair, and takes about two hours in an emergency. A police officer worked with the Water Dept. to divert excess water to a storm drain over the weekend.
Brazil residents have three options when reporting leaks, the Mayor said. They can call the leak line in the phone book at 442-1065, call the Water Dept. office at City Hall, which is not open on Saturday or Sunday, or they can contact the Brazil Police Dept.
"There was no phone call made to the police department on Saturday at all. It's not an issue of overtime at all," he said. "Am I trying to keep overtime costs down? You bet. I'm not going to deny it. We were not informed that someone was without water."
While the Mayor was out of town when the water leak took place, he said the only call he personally received was regarding an unrelated problem with a hydrant on Hendrix Street on Jan. 22.
After seeing Swan's letter in The Brazil Times, the Mayor said he checked for messages on the leak line and at the Water Dept., and consulted the police radio logs. He said that according to information in the radio logs, a call was received about a leak on Compton Street at 9:16 a.m. on Jan. 23. The on-duty dispatcher radioed a police officer at 9:22 a.m. to verify the severity of the leak.
Following standard practice, an officer went to verify the leak before notifying on-call personnel, which happened at 9:49 a.m. Water personnel notified the police there was nothing that could be done about the leak until Jan. 24 (Monday), but if the problem persisted, to contact the Street Dept. for sand to use on the water freezing at the intersection. The logs indicate a neighbor reported to the Water Dept. employee they had enough water to flush their toilets and the leak would be fine until Monday morning.
Meanwhile, at 3:15 p.m., a male resident from the same home as the previous caller advised there was a water leak behind his house. The dispatcher advised the caller it would be taken care of on Monday.
A 3/4-inch plastic line was repaired behind 321 E. Vermont St. on Jan. 24.
"There was nothing on the radio logs that indicated people were without water. Otherwise we would have taken care of it," Arthur said. "The employees did exactly what they were supposed to."