Thursday, April 16, 2009

Living In A Lonely World

My wife--herself the product of a small town--now realizes that it's not as much a matter of the size of your municipality as it is a matter of the size of your neighbor's goodwill:

Growing up in a small town, I didn't see much of the charm a small town could bring.

My thoughts on small towns had changed some as I grew older, but accelerated when storms went through my hometown in 1998. My parents home as well as everyone in their neighborhood had several large branches and trees down. My husband and I went out to help my parents along with husband's father and brother. It was truly amazing to see. We saw people coming in from several other towns volunteering to help. Neighbors were helping neighbors, etc. Across the street, a neighbor of theirs had a huge tree down in their front yard, it was cleaned up by the time we left that day. My parents damage was basically cleaned up as well, thanks to the private citizens from their town and neighboring small towns.

When my husband and I left to go back home, we noted that in the suburbs of Minneapolis (Minnetonka, specifically) their were still trees blocking the streets. We both marveled at the fact that my hometown was well on its way of being cleaned up a day after the storm while the suburbs still seemed to be untouched.

In January 2009 I received a call from my Dad that their basement was full of sewage water. They found out the same day that two other homes had sewage water in their basement. When my parents contacted their city, they were informed that the city did flush the sewage system recently. It was found out a couple months later that while the pipes could handle about 375 gallons per minute, they were flushing 500 gallons per minute. Based on this information, it was clearly the fault of the city that the sewage water was in their basement.

It is now April 15th, and their basement is still unusable. The clean up of the basement was done within 24 hours of the incident only because several calls had been made to the city and to their insurance agent, who happens to be the city's insurance agent as well (which, I think, does not help their case). However, many of their belongings are in storage, the basement bathroom is unusable, carpet is all ripped up, etc. The reason for the delay: who is going to pay?

My parents did receive a check from their homeowners policy, however that does not cover the clean up and repair the damage to the house itself. It was our belief that even after figuring depreciation, they would not have any out of pocket for the clean up, replacing flooring, painting needed, and some wood work that needed to be done. Now, they are told that they will have to pay $500-$1,00 out of their pocket. My parents have caved, they are tired of the fight, and so they will pay. I am unsure when they will get their house back in order.

They have lived in the same town for over 50 years, they had 5 children, my Dad was a volunteer fire fighter, member of the American Legion, and had owned a business in that small town for several years. My Mom served on the city council and still volunteers for the city. They are both now in their mid-seventies But apparently--based on the way their small town officials are treating them--none of that matters now. Their town is Norwood Young America, MN.

I know the two situations are not the same, but they made me rethink the idea of the charm of small towns. It's the people that make the small town, not the actual city itself. There is loyalty for your neighbor, not loyalty for the town. I think I will stick with the Minneapolis suburb that I now call home.

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