Thursday, April 5, 2012

O Davey Boy, The Pipes are Calling

Even though we're on vacation, there's still work to be done, and much of the work seems to involve being on hold and leaving voicemail messages.  In this case, it's with the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission --WSSC-- a.k.a. the ones who will pipe water into and out of the house.

You call WSSC and immediately get voicemail, which is something I always find fishy.  Like when you call an airline in the middle of a random Tuesday and they tell you how they're "experiencing a high volume of calls" or something; give me a break-- we're going to be put on hold, and it's because you're too cheap to pay more operators, not because too many of us are in need of your services!  But I digress.

So anyhow, this voicemail tells you all of the water people are busy doing what water people do, and you should pick from one of five choices.  The fifth choice is "permits," so I've always chosen that one. Each time, however, I have been directed to leave a message, and that's it.  Last week I left multiple mssages, and each time a guy named Dave called me back, leaving a message of his own. Always when I had stepped away from my desk for about 4 seconds, too.  Anyhow, it was a game of perpetual phone tag.

So on Tuesday, I decided to go out on the deck during the kids' nap times and do my voicemail-leaving and holding with a view of the ocean... and got frustrated again when choice number five led me to yet another voicemail box.  So I hung up and called back, this time going rogue and choosing #1. Nope, same results.  Hung up.  Called back, Choice #2. And guess what? Dave picks up!

So now I find myself standing on the deck looking at the ocean and speaking to the elusive Dave at WSSC.  Before I tell him anything else, I make sure he has my name and number in case we get disconnected, because I'm pretty sure we'll never reach each other again if we get disconnected.  

It's a long conversation-- at least a half an hour-- but it's very productive, and by the time it's over, I've gotten exactly the information I needed, as well as some interesting tidbits as to why no one at any utility knows what/where the heck our house is. Turns out our house has been listed as having at least three different addresses on three different streets, and different permits and site plans have been issued for each-- and this is just for water and sewers. It has been listed on the 2700-block of DeWitt Circle, on the 9600-block of nearby Hume Drive, and as having the same address as the main condo building across the street. So now, along with all of our permit request stuff, we also have to submit paperwork confirming that, yes, we do have a real address, and we are actually a single-family home (we're listed as a condo), and then they can go and normalize all the rest of the historical permit stuff.

Other stuff I learned:

1) We get to pay a $3050 fee along with our permit to help defray the water company's cost of bringing water pipes to the property. And that's on top of the $750 annual payment (for the next 20-some years) to help defray the water company's cost of bringing water pipes BY the property. (Did you catch the difference?)

2) Even though it's the same utility, we get to pay separate fees for water inspection and sewer inspection, as well as fees for each of the toilets, sinks, and spigots we build into the house.

3) We also get to pay a separate fee to have the water meter installed... So they can bill us for our water use.

Phew! Funny, because when DC Water upgraded our lead lines a few years ago, we paid not a cent. Guess that's the difference between living in the 'burbs and what my former boss called "the People's Republic of Washington."

In all, I won't really see most of those fees; they'll all be sucked into our giant FHA mortgage, to be paid in monthly increments for the next 7.5 presidential administrations. We have, however, already paid the $750 fee twice now-- yeah, we're only 57 days short of being a year into this now... I can't believe it either.

After hanging up with Dave, and thanking him profusely (I find that can never hurt with contractors or bureaucrats) I called Rory to update him on everything I had learned. He can pretty much take things from here on water and sewer, except setting up the actual account, which we have to do ourselves. Again, I'm psyched to hear he's been busy in the few days we've been away. Apparently either more windows have been taken off for restoration or those that had been taken off are now back on. Also, the roof is being finished, including refurbishment of the tin section above the front porch. (I promise pics when I get back in town.).

The big current issue is heating, though. He found last month that most of our radiators were unusable, and the replacement cost is likely going to be astronomical. So he and the HVAC folks have been figuring out the best road to hoe. Looks like the radiator/heat-pump combo is going in favor of a larger gas forced-air unit. He says "the numbers still aren't in" on the system, but from how he was talking I'm thinking it's a done deal. I can only guess at how the MHT folks will flinch when they hear the radiators are going-- me too, since we've loved our radiators in the current house-- but we'll be sure to salvage anything we can that's pretty. Not to mention, we'll regain some precious square footage in certain corners of the house, especially the dining room and Isaac's room.

Anyhow, that's it for now. Next week when we get back, we're meeting up to finalize small layout changes needed by updates to the HVAC plan-- as well as little tweaks like moving Lola's closet two inches to accommodate the bed Abby's already chosen for her at IKEA. :) In the meantime, I'll keep on sitting in the sun, on hold-- just not leaving messages with the water company!

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