New information: Warning to property owners after utility marking mix-up

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WELLSTON, Okla. - We told you about Carole Tomlin and her frustration over her water line being cut during the installation of a storm shelter on April 3.

"Horrible, horrible. How do I take care of it? How do I get water? I have to get water, it's a necessity," Carole told NewsChannel 4's Abby Broyles earlier in the month.

Carole believed that calling "Okie" before the dig ensured that all of her lines would be marked properly. She even showed us what she thought were markings indicating water lines on her property.

Since then, we've learned Okie does NOT mark private water or sewer lines. Okie does notify your city, but it's up to your city whether it will mark your private water or sewer lines.

The city of Wellston doesn't do that.

So, the gray paint that was on the ground before the installation of Tomlin's shelter, that we said marked the water line, was not, in fact, an 'official' marking. It was actually sprayed by the shelter company, to show where to dig the shelter.

This time of year, many Oklahomans are having shelters installed, so here's something to keep in mind. Make sure you know whether your city will mark your water and sewer lines and read the contract carefully.

According to the Smart Shelter contract, for instance, the company is "not liable or responsible for damages that may occur during the installation... damage to driveways, shrubbery, landscaping, sprinkler systems, underground utilities, pipes, sewer pipes or cables" in foreseeable or unforeseeable situations.

That type of language makes you, not the shelter company, responsible for paying for almost any damage.

Things worked out for Carole; after our story aired, three different shelter companies offered to fix her water line for free, and install a new shelter, also for free.

Within a week, Preferred Shelters gave Carole and her family peace of mind and a safe place to go during storm season.

Correction info: This article (above) has updated information that has since been discovered since the original April 3 airing of Carole's story.


(original story-edited) WELLSTON, Okla. - For one Oklahoma family, getting a storm shelter installed has turned into a big mess.

Their water line was cut, and adding insult to injury, the company left them with the repair bill.

Carole Tomlin and her family have had no running water all week since the storm shelter company hit their water line.

The shelter was supposed to be free through a FEMA grant, but now it could cost them a lot of money they just don’t have.

Installing Tomlin’s storm shelter should have given her peace of mind.

Instead, it’s turned into a disaster.

Here’s the problem.

The company Smart Shelters cut her water line when they tried to install a storm shelter, even after Okie Dig marked where the water lines were.

“When did they hit a water line, not only did they hit it, they yanked it up out of the ground,” Tomlin said.

With the line cut, they shut off the water.

“Right now I’m buying gallons of water,” Tomlin says, “we just have to heat it and pour it in the tub. luckily we have gas to boil it.”

They also left a big hole in Carole’s front yard, along with their storm shelter, and the repair bill.

“Smart Shelters just says it's not their responsibility, it's all on me and I’ve called 2 or 3 times and now they won't even talk to me,” Tomlin said.

The company told Newschannel 4 Friday that under contract, they are not responsible for any damage on unmarked property.

They said Tomlin would be responsible for the plumbing bill if it’s unmarked.

Smart Shelters told us Friday morning they’d call back, but we’re still waiting.

So is Tomlin.

“I can't afford a huge bill to get water, but I’ll do what I have to do,” Tomlin said.

A lawyer for Storm Shelters told Newschannel 4 the company did not do anything wrong.

“She knew what her responsibility was. She knew what the contract says and she knows the company isn’t responsible under those circumstances,” attorney Carl Hughes said.

If you’re looking for a  storm shelter, make sure you do your research.

You can find out if the company is licensed, insured, and bonded through the Oklahoma Insurance Department:

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