A copy of an advertisement letter sent by SLWA to every Kenmore Resident. Courtesy photo

A copy of an advertisement letter sent by SLWA to every Kenmore Resident. Courtesy photo

Kenmore responds to service line letter confusion

The city’s intention was to inform residents of one possible service line coverage and a possible vendor.

The City of Kenmore has responded to residents’ concerns regarding the city’s involvement with a service line warranty program that was met with contention on local social media pages.

The city entered an agreement with Service Line Warranties of America, a national sewer and water line insurance company endorsed by the National League of Cities, after reports from locals who’ve needed costly repairs for aging pipes. According to city manager Rob Karlinsey, the median age of pipes in Kenmore is 40 years old and the city only intended to give residents a protection option.

“The City of Kenmore had the best intentions to inform homeowners about the existence of this type of service line coverage and a possible vendor,” according to the city’s response, which is posted on its website.

Several locals voiced their opposition to this move on a community Facebook page, despite the city’s stated intentions. SLWA mailed multiple advertisement letters, which were sealed with the city’s logo and Mayor David Baker’s signature, to every Kenmore resident.

The letters sparked controversy as locals worried this would scare unknowing homeowners into buying insurance. Some residents pointed out on social media that the letters may seem like a requirement or a bill.

“I think someone out there abused our government and the sad thing is our council is not getting it,” said Masso Salmassi, who’s lived in Kenmore since 1979. “It creates some suspicion (as to) why someone endorses a commercial venue, using an official position, without getting anything back.”

Baker and Karlinsey apologized for the situation and assured residents that the city received no payment whatsoever from SLWA. Originally, the SLWA offered the city $0.50 per policy in exchange for using the city’s logo and Baker’s signature in their advertisements.

Karlinsey said that he understood how the advertisement could be seen as a requirement or bill by some residents.

“I’m just truly sorry this happened, this was not our intention,” Baker said.

Karlinsey added, “It’s a case where we were trying to be helpful and it was perceived in the wrong way. We just didn’t want the citizens left hanging high and dry, when they have an emergency like this. Citizens are welcome to buy any coverage they want, but we’ve determined that this coverage is good.”

The city requested that SLWA no longer use Baker’s signature and city logo, but SLWA sent out a second letter that included the items despite a three-week notice.

“You’d think they could’ve turned off the printing press before then,” Karlinsey said with a chuckle.

Karlinsey, who is a Kenmore resident, also said that he found certain aspects of the letter concerning, particularly the request to reply by certain dates.

“I found it concerning to see that deadline because you can apply for this program at any time,” he said.

The city’s written response reflected this, saying, “homeowners are under no obligation to purchase warranties or insurance for their water and sewer lines. If homeowners do wish to consider obtaining such insurance, they are encouraged to conduct their own review of all available insurance or warranty options before making a decision.”

The SLWA reported about 60 residents signed up for the program as of mid-December according to Karlinsey.

SLWA is based in Pennsylvania and partners with hundreds of cities to provide warranty programs for residents. The city discovered the organization because of its official endorsement from the NLC.

The city’s response went on to deny any perceived endorsement directly from the city itself and encourage residents to read the fine print of any policy they’re considering. The full response can be read at tinyurl.com/yb8tt2pv.

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