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Lyons Homeowner Thinks She's Getting Hosed By Village's Demand She Pay For Leaking Water Line Not On Her Property

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Owning a home can be expensive, and surprise maintenance is part the deal, but dozens of people living in one Chicago suburb are frustrated that they're facing a $10,000 bill to fix something that's not even on their property.

CBS 2 Morning Insider Lauren Victory takes us inside the waterworks.

Christine Wehrle eagerly awaits the fruits from her pear tree every year. Keeping them well-watered turned into a much bigger chore recently.

"My heart stopped," she said, describing her reaction to a letter from the Village of Lyons, informing her of a water leak on her service line.

But the leak isn't by her plants or her parking spot. The problem isn't even by her home. It's next to a neighboring business.

"The red X is where the leak supposedly is," Wherle said, pointing to a spot on the parkway outside Sam's Liquors on 43rd Street.

The necessary repairs go out into to street. Busting up asphalt, replacing the pipe, and fixing the road will cost thousands. It's an area pounded by plows clearing snow in winter and semi-trucks making deliveries year-round.

"I just think that this is municipal property. I can't see it any other way," said Wehrle, who disputes that she should have to pay for the repairs.

A village-provided diagram shows service lines to the water main are the homeowner's responsibility, even if it is past the grass and onto the pavement. CBS 2 is told it's been part of Village Code since 1965.

"It's 'get it done or else. Get it done or we're going to cut your water off,'" said Wehlre.

Lyons is actively and continually looking for leaks, Village Manager Tom Sheahan tells CBS 2. The most recent hunt for leaks began this Spring, and found approximately 28 problem spots, which means Wherle is hardly the only homeowner on the hook.

"I think about the families in town this could be happening to. That could stop one of their children from going to college," said Wehrle of taking on the cost of repairs.

Lyons promises to waive all permit and bond fees for these projects, which washes off several hundred dollars. But, with quotes coming in at more than $7,000, Wherle still feels hosed.

She showed us her water bills that are consistently the same, arguing that the cost would go up if she truly had a leak.

Sheahan tells us the company hired by Lyons to look for leaks found them by listening to the water system, and the contractor has been "spot on" so far.

In addition to a phone conversation, the Village provided a written statement to CBS 2 that reads in part, "Of the 28 leaks 4 have been on Village main and as of today 3 of the leaks have been repaired. Serving over 3,000 customers ½ of 1 percent of home owner service pipes have been found to be leaking. For these residents the Village is notifying and working with them to make repairs. For example Lyons waved all permit or bond fees for a licensed plumber doing a service pipe repair. Also the Village has been in contact with all residents throughout this whole process looking to protect the system as a whole so that we can continue to provide safe, reliable, and affordable water to our residents."

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