MARICOPA — After a letter from the city about a warranty program showed up at many Maricopa houses, residents are questioning its validity as well as the city’s intentions.
During the past few weeks, houses in Maricopa received a letter from the city informing residents of a new partnership with the company Service Line Warranties of America. The letter gives the option to enroll in Exterior Water Service Line Coverage, which can cover repair of damage to outside water or well service.
In Maricopa, Global Water Resources is responsible for the water line in the street up until the water meter on someone’s property. However, the line from the meter to the home — a few feet long — usually is not covered.
That is where the SLWA warranty comes into play.
“This is a completely voluntary program done across the country that helps educate folks about their responsibilities with the water and sewer lines that service their homes,” said Jennifer Brown, assistant to the city manager. “It gives our residents the option of choice on what they would like to do to protect themselves.”
After the letters were sent out, and a subsequent press release, many Maricopa residents questioned the partnership.
J.D. Robertson, who has been a resident of Rancho El Dorado since before Maricopa was incorporated, called the partnership a blatant scam and said the city should not be involved in it.
He said he has received letters from SLWA for years now and he always throws them in the trash.
“(SLWA) wasn’t good at selling these warranties on their own so they went to the city to back it and make it seem like it is a good idea,” Robertson said.
But he said purchasing the warranty is far from a good idea. He said the pipes are already fairly new. In addition, the weather here doesn’t damage them as much as it does in other parts of the country. Even if the pipes did receive a lot of wear-and-tear, Robertson said the warranty isn’t likely to cover that damage.
In the letter from the city, it says the lines are “subjected to the same elements that can cause our public service lines to decay — age, ground shifting, fluctuating temperatures and more.”
While these causes are listed, the fine print of the letter states the agreement doesn’t cover some things. Some, but not all, of the circumstances not covered are accidents, fires, earthquakes, drought, freezing and incidental damages.
Robertson said people are throwing away money for something that likely won’t happen. And if it does happen, there still won’t be proactive activity by the company.
Jon Corwin, vice president and general manager of Global Water Resources, said the company routinely sees breaks on this part of the pipe. GWR is not involved in this partnership, but he said it is the homeowners’ discretion whether they think the warranty is worth it.
“It’s like having car insurance — you hope you never have to use it, but if something happens, it’s nice to have it,” Corwin said.
He said weighing the cost/benefit is difficult since the price to repair a pipe varies so widely.
Robertson said the city only entered into this partnership for its own benefit.
The warranty costs $5.33 per month or $63.96 per year. Brown said the city will receive 50 cents royalty for each month a product is active. This is aggregated and paid annually by calendar year.
Robertson isn’t the only one concerned with the new development. After the letters and press release got into the residents’ hands, many took to Facebook to express their disagreement. For one, they questioned the bidding process, stating that local organizations offer better rates and should have been considered. Brown said there was no bidding process for the partnership.
Maricopa residents also scrutinized the vetting of SLWA.
“This is a program that has been vetted and endorsed by the National League of Cities and Towns and the Arizona League of Cities and Towns,” Brown said.
She said more than 475 municipalities participate in this program throughout the country. In comments on Facebook, Mayor Christian Price ensured residents that the program is, by no means, a scam.
SLWA has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau; however, 90 percent of the customer reviews on the BBB are negative.
“The city is opening up their citizens to a scam, and they don’t give a damn,” Robertson said.