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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Pipes Freeze, Burst, Flood Pizza Place

Burst water pipes in an apartment over the vacant House of Pizza on Main Street caused considerable damage to the building Wednesday.

Eve Roberts said she checked the building Tuesday for business owner George Vlahakis, who is out of state, and it was OK and the heat was on. When she arrived early Wednesday afternoon she found water pouring through the building.

She immediately called Central Maine Power at 12:22 p.m. to shut off the electricity.

Roberts said the tenant in the apartment recently moved.

"The only thing we could think of is CMP switched over to the smart meter after I left yesterday," she said. "The notice they left on the door said the power would be interrupted and the furnace must have never kicked back on."

She believed that during the night the water pipes froze and burst, causing water to flow through the apartment and down to the restaurant.

Roberts said after she called CMP, she called the Water District to shut off the line from the street and then notified the Oxford County Regional Communications Center in Paris of the incident.

"They asked if I wanted the Fire Department," she said. "I said 'no' because I had called and talked to the Water District and they said someone was coming to shut off the water."

Roberts said she spoke with a woman at the Water District and was told the person who dispatches employees was on vacation.

"I told her, 'Look, I need someone to shut the water off, its everywhere,'" she said. "That's when she said someone would be right over to shut the water off."

She waited more than an hour and then called the communications center again at about 1:30 p.m. and asked for the Fire Department, she said.

Dixfield Fire Chief Scott Dennett said there was approximately 4 to 5 inches of water in the basement and the ceiling tiles in the restaurant broke apart and fell to the floor.

Firefighters shut off the water from the street and pumped out the basement.

Roberts said Dennett advised that due to the extensive damage the owner would need to contact a company to clean the mess. She said she was also told dehumidifiers would be needed to dry out the lines before power could be restored.

Vlahakis operated the House of Pizza until it closed two years ago. He said his sister, Helen Manamus, of Massachusetts, owns the building and it is insured.

He said he spoke to the insurance agent and would contact CMP about why workers changed the meter on a vacant building and interrupted power without trying to contact the owner first.

Vlahakis said if the insurance company does not cover the damage he would contact CMPfor reimbursement.

Calls placed to CMP for comment on its policies and procedures concerning the changeover to smart meters were not returned Wednesday.

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