It was Tuesday morning, trash and recycling collection day for residents of Stanmore Road, and Rachael Audette was watching television when she heard the familiar sound of the trucks.
Then there was a crunch; only it was coming from her house not the trucks, and the television went dead. Audette ran outside. The fascia board to her house was ripped off and wires were dangling from the truck.
“What are you doing, what are you doing? Stop,” she remembers yelling.
The truck went no farther, but that’s when Audette’s nightmare started.
Police arrived. National Grid showed up to cut the power to her home. She said the city truck driver told her that the downed wires were her responsibility and that this sort of accident happens frequently.
“He told me it was my problem,” said Audette who, in her frustration, was on the phone to the Beacon by Thursday.
What she wants is to be “treated fairly” and for the city to assume responsibility for what happened. She would also like to get back the $750 she spent to have electricity, telephone and cable service restored to her home. In addition, she thinks the city should pick up the tab for the food that spoiled because she was without power for more than a day.
The unexpected expense has put her in a bind.
“I had to dish out $750 for no fault of my own,” says the 60-year-old Audette, who is unemployed. She said she “scraped” the money together, including savings she had set aside for her taxes.
One of Audette’s initial calls was to City Hall. She said she was informed she would need to file a claim and it could be six months, maybe even a year, before the claim reached the Council Finance Committee. From there, it would go to the full council for action. That was a wait Audette didn’t want to make.
She wondered if the city building department could help. Could they bring pressure to get the city to repair the damage?
It was not where she should have gone.
“He wanted to cite me for dangling wires,” Audette said of the man she talked with.
With the use of a neighbor’s phone, Audette was able to find an electrician who quickly responded to her situation and had her reconnected. Her calls to City Hall didn’t go unheeded. On Friday, she received a claim form, only that made her all the more aggravated.
The form was for potholes and asked for her automobile registration, location of the pothole and the estimated repair costs. Outraged, she asked why the city would send her such a form; hadn’t they heard a word she had said?
A representative from the city finance department that sent out the form said the document could be used for other than pothole damage claims. She added that there is a process for claims and that it would need to be followed.
When informed of the incident, David Picozzi, acting director of the Department of Public Works, questioned whether the hydraulic arm of the truck had snagged the wires. When told that was the case, he said, “It’s absolutely our fault.”
Picozzi was not aware of Audette’s case, but he said he would review reports and urged her to file a claim immediately.
Assuming the situation occurred as Audette describes it, Picozzi said he would approve the claim once it crosses his desk. From there, it would go to the Council Finance Committee and given Council approval, Audette would be reimbursed. From Picozzi’s perspective, all of this could happen in several weeks, which certainly is better than six months to a year.
And the lost food?
“She should put in a claim for that, too,” said Picozzi.