Original Jan 27, 2022. Update Apr 10, 2023.
Saline County residents, if you have recently had an issue with your plumbing, sprinklers, internet service, gas service, or maybe just a big hill of dirt that suddenly appeared in your yard… it might be due to fiber internet installation by AT&T’s contractors… and you are not alone.
While many locals will be happy to have more choices for high-speed internet, I’ll speak for us in saying that we do not wish to experience an interruption of our quality of lifestyle. That interruption for the purpose of this article would be in the form of an internet provider installing new fiber but also leaving a lot of drama in its path. Does this sound like I’m taking it personally? Well it is a personal matter to me, after having dealt with dysfunctional plumbing in my home for over a week.
I knew AT&T contractors were coming long before the work began, because they put an international doorhanger on my front door knob to let me know. That was a good start. A month or so later – who knows because nobody holds on to those paper doorhangers – several tiny orange flags showed up in my yard to note where the utilities were buried. A few more weeks went by with those little flags blowing in the wind and no other activity.
One day, while my son and his friend were staying at my home during their college break, someone flushed the toilet, and on the other side of the house, there was… a gurgle. Let me assure you that with that flush in mind, I quizzed the boys about their eating habits and the health of their colons. I also quizzed them about their philosophy on the life cycle of the common wet wipe. Neither of them gave up any intel that would point to a human error coming from inside the domicile. Let it be known that I search my memory to examine my own recent habits as well.
My initial theory, since I heard a gurgle from the washing machine drain pipe in the garage, was that perhaps a small mouse crawled down the drain pipe and drowned there. (Hairs raised in the crown of my head as I finish typing that sentence.)
Scroll down to see the 📺video of the emergency city meeting about this. 👇
After having taken the boys back to college (Woo Pig Sooie), I phoned a plumber first thing Monday. After I described the symptoms, and even mimicked the gurgle noises over the phone (imagine Otis, the town drunk of Mayberry, chugging his evening moonshine quota, before turning himself in at the jail for the night – that’s the sound, only louder), the plumber said I needed a rooter. Okay so I called a rooter.
Long story short, I ended up with two different rooters, who after digging a deep hole in my front yard and finding mud in the pipe, combined with the spectacle of fresh dirt near the curb – at my water meter – came to the conclusion that the AT&T contractor who recently buried fiber, had crushed the sewer line.
I talked to my neighbors and discovered that they had similar problems, and there were others in the neighborhood. I opened Facebook to find even more friends having issues – one with a broken driveway and zero communication from whoever it was that broke it, but it was definitely in relation to the installation of AT&T fiber.
I then contacted Benton Mayor Tom Farmer and State Senator Kim Hammer to let them know that pretty much every other house and business in the path of AT&T’s fiber installation had one experience of property damage or another. The mayor informed me that he had already heard from several people about it, including Koffee with a Kause and First Baptist Church, so he scheduled a meeting with AT&T for Tuesday, January 25th at 10:30 a.m. I wouldn’t have missed it for anything, so you can see the video from that meeting below. My comments on behalf of myself, my friends and neighbors are at about 29:18 in the video.
Senator Hammer did his part by confirming the right people from AT&T would be at the meeting, as well as pertinent staff from Benton Utilities, State Representatives Tony Furman and Lanny Fite, and Bryant Mayor Allen Scott.
The general consensus after the meeting was that contractors need to take more care to protect city and citizen property, and AT&T and their representatives working in our neighborhoods need to utilize better communication. The Mayor also distributed copies of an 2021 Benton Ordinance regarding protocol for companies and their contractors doing work like this. I’m telling you all of this to let you know that you are justified if you have an issue on your property or perhaps in the middle of your street – as one resident told me, “they basically left a speed bump after installation.”
Here is what you need to do if you’re having a problem and need to make things right. I realize some of you might have called in professionals like I did. Save the bills and make a copy to submit, because the contractors have promised to reimburse you for them. Your next step is to use the contact information below, that AT&T provided at that meeting with elected officials and Benton Utilities.
If you contact the phone number and/or email and you are not getting a proper response within a day, call the City of Benton or Bryant or your State Representative and let them know. They may have all had a meeting, but installation is not over. The very evening after the meeting, MySaline published a notice that AT&T’s representatives cut through a main water line in Hurricane Lake Estates and that Benton utilities had to come fix it. At present, you will see trucks all over the community, working to get that fiber installed. It’s going to keep happening, so hold on to that contact info above.
At this point in my personal rollercoaster with the sewer damage, the contractors came back to fix that sewer pipe under my front yard, the city inspected and rejected the parts used, the contractors fixed it again and the inspector from Benton Utilities Wastewater approved it. Then the contractors put the dirt back, and they planted grass seed. I am currently waiting for my rooter bills in the amount of $270 to be reimbursed. I am told they cut checks and mail them on Fridays. Feel free to tell your experience in the comments of this website or on social media wherever we have the article posted.
AND WE HAVE AN UPDATE… Apr 10, 2023:
My bills were reimbursed and I have since moved to a different neighborhood where AT&T is currently installing fiber. I immediately went out to introduce myself to the contractors and let them know I went through way too many issues already, and I know things just happen sometimes, but pleeease be careful on my street. After three weeks of work on my street, my toilet still works – so far.