Niles water main break goes unfixed for more than a day

Mayor: Union workers not mandated to come in on days off

NILES — A water break ran for more than 24 hours this past weekend when the city was unable to get enough crew members to fix the problem immediately.

Roberts Street SE resident Linda Plume said from her understanding, a waterline at the corner of Roberts and South Broadway streets broke before 2 a.m. Saturday, and water continued to run until city crews were able to repair the problem around 8 a.m. Sunday.

Plume said she noticed the break at 5:45 a.m. Saturday when she heard a car driving through water.

“There it was, going like a river,” Plume said.

She said she notified the city, and she wasn’t the first call.

Mayor Steve Mientkiewicz said he was made aware of the problem around 7 a.m. Saturday, and was on site by 10 a.m.

“We tried to get a full crew out and were unsuccessful,” Mientkiewicz said.

He said union workers are not mandated anywhere in their city contract to come in on their days off, and the city does not offer on-call pay.

“We were only able to get two people. You need at least three, preferably four, for safety reasons,” he said.

One employee came out Saturday afternoon to divert water from houses with a dirt dam, Mientkiewicz said.

“If we can’t get anyone to respond, we do what we can to make sure everyone is safe,” he said.

Mientkiewicz said a crew was out early Sunday and had repairs finished in two or three hours. He said he wasn’t sure how much water was lost during the break, but there is always a cost to the city when water is lost.

The city was released from fiscal emergency in March after receiving the designation in 2014 because of deficits in seven funds, including a $2.7 million deficit in the water fund.

Plume said it must have been hundreds of thousands of gallons of water. She also said the fix was too quick.

“It was just a hurried up job,” Plume said. “They put a Band-Aid on it.”

On Monday, clay-like mud remained piled at the end of Plume’s driveway, and she said she is worried about tracking it into the garage and house. There also was thick sandy dirt residue along the road.

“This needs to be cleaned up,” Plume said. “I’m not looking for a handout; I just want them to clean up the mess they made.”

Mientkiewicz said usually crews try to restore a street by the following day. He had not been to Roberts Street on Monday, he said.