Thursday, October 12, 2000

Repair costs vary across Newport

Crews have hands full

By Terry Flynn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NEWPORT — Repairs on appliances damaged by water carried through the city's gas lines could run as high as $1,000 for a single customer, but no one will be receiving a bill for those services immediately.

        The repairs are necessary for some of the Cinergy customers who lost natural gas service when a broken water main flooded city gas lines Oct. 5. Workers have been going door-to-door to turn gas back on, but if equipment was damaged, it must be repaired before the gas can be restored.

Residents who have had appliances repaired by private contractors as part of getting their gas service restored can call a free telephone line, (800) 558-5657.

        Tom Manning, vice president of ARC Electric of Wilder, one of 60 private heating contractors working in the city to restore gas service and repair damaged equipment, said Wednesday the cost of the repairs for each customer can vary dramatically depending on:

        • Number of appliances damaged and extent of damage.

        • Cost of parts necessary to make repairs. Control valves, the most common part needed, can run $65 or more.

        • Time needed to complete each job. ARC Electric personnel working on Sunday, for example, bill at double time, $110 per hour.

        “It's hard to put a solid number on the jobs,” Mr. Manning said as contractors and Cinergy work crews continued to restore gas to affected homes.

        Mr. Manning explained that “every job is different. Some houses had more water than others and had more damage to appliances. There is the difference between new furnaces and old furnaces. And there are different size control valves. It's possible that a customer could have $1,000 damage, or much less than that.”

        Exactly who will pay for what is still to be determined because liability regarding the gas line damage has not been established. But the city of Newport is already assisting its residents in recovering the costs of the repairs.

        “The city is willing to spend some funds to help in the repair of appliances damaged by the water carried into homes through the gas lines,” City Man ager Phil Ciafardini said Wednesday.

        The city has set up a hot line for people who are seeking financial assistance with repairs to their equipment.

        “That's the number for our insurer's claims administrator,” Mr. Ciafardini said. “They will take information on damaged appliances, and we will work with the claims administrator. We want to react as quickly as possible to help people, rather than wait for any liability findings to be made.”

        He said there was not set amount that would be paid, but rather “we will review the requests on a case-by-case basis.”

        By Wednesday, natural gas service had been restored to 2,800 of the 3,700 homes and businesses affected by the gas outage, Cinergy spokesman Steve Brash said. About 500 homes and businesses have water damage and need repair, he said.

        “Those who don't have water damage, and the ones we have access to, should be back on (Wednesday) night,” Mr. Brash said.

        Cinergy has been unable to get into about 400 buildings.

        Cinergy crews have given 900 work orders to contractors, Mr. Brash said. Some of those are repeat visits, where workers were unable to get all the water out during their first visit, or additional water drainage or other problems may have occurred since the gas service was restored. Some also may have had water damage fixed on one floor or apartment, but not on other floors or apartments within the same building.

        Mr. Manning said Cinergy has made it clear to the private contractors that the utility will pay them for time and any parts used, and then seek reimbursement as needed. Out-of-town contractors are being put up in hotels.

        There has been no official determination for the cause of the incident. An 8-inch water main under the parking lot at the Newport Shopping Center ruptured, and that apparently resulted in a break in an 8-inch gas main. Water and some mud was pumped into the gas main and carried into gas lines throughout the city.

        Mr. Ciafardini said the city and Cinergy are both investigating the incident in an effort to determine a cause. “It's possible we may never have a definite cause,” he said.

        On Wednesday, Cinergy also flew in more control valves from Chicago and St. Louis. Control valves work in gas appliances to regulate flow and can jam open and maintain a continuous flow of gas to a furnace or hot water heater.

        “We've gone through a supply of over 700 (valves) that we brought in the last couple of days,” Mr. Brash said Wednesday.

        Mr. Manning said the control valves, which are being supplied to contractors by Cinergy, are being replaced in any home or building where water is found in the gas line leading to the appliance.

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