Hundreds of concerned homeowners affected with failing concrete foundations met for the first time in Vernon.
The meeting comes four months into a Troubleshooters investigation exposing the problem plaguing some homeowners in the northeast corner of the state for nearly years.
The meeting was organized by Ellington attorney Brenda Draghi. Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner Jonathan Harris, along with representatives from the Attorney General’s Office and Insurance Department, updated the estimated crowd of 500 on the state civil demand investigation.
Harris told the crowd that they’ve contracted a concrete expert from University of Connecticut to study the science behind the chemical reaction causing severe cracks and eventual failure in concrete basement walls.
“It’s a little daunting the magnitude, we knew that the scope was large,” said Harris. “It’s encouraging that people are coming out because a lot of people felt isolated and didn’t know what to do and know they now there’s people out there to help.”
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) said the sizable crowd is proof the size and scope of the issue is “unprecedented in his career”. Adding if there was example of innocent people “suffering wrong as consumers, it would be you.”
“You know the old saying, ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’? This picture is worth a thousand words,” Blumenthal said prior to leaving the meeting. “Not just the numbers but the passion and the anxiety that people rightly feel.”
Congressman Joseph Courtney (D-2) who lives in Vernon, also acknowledged the number of people in attendance saying it’s personal because neighbors on his street are affected by the problem.
“Looking at the size of this crowd, it speaks louder and more powerfully than any one of us up here could ever achieve," he said.
Those sentiments were echoed by the homeowners in attendance. Phil Luginbuhl said the cost of replacing his foundation cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. He says atleast four other households in his family also are dealing with the issue.
“I knew this was a problem, but not this big,” said Luginbuhl. “This is incredible.”
Hundreds of people contacted NBC Connecticut following the original July 21 investigation. They all reported having their insurance companies deny claims of coverage. The only remedy, according to contractors and structural engineers, is to replace the foundation.
“I’m very pleased to see the turnout and excited for the state of Connecticut to see the enormous amount of people that have this problem,” said Tim Heim, whose Willington foundation is bowing and showing significant spider cracks.
In August, because of the NBC Connecticut investigation, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy called on the Attorney General’s Office to assist the Department of Consumer Protection in a civil investigation.
Advisories have been sent to home inspectors and realtors to be aware of the problem. The Insurance Department sent a warning to insurance companies not to drop or non-renew coverage if policy holders file claims.
For Linda Tofolowsky, this day is a long time coming. Her home’s concrete basement walls began deteriorating in the mid 1990s. She sought help from her town, state and the courts to no avail. While she’s encouraged by seeing everyone in the same room, she’s still looking for answers.
“I’m happy somebody’s listening, maybe something will happen, but I’m guarded because the ball has been dropped so many times in the past,” said Tofolowsky.
While no solutions are on the table yet, many left saying the future seems a little brighter.
“I can see the light at the end of the tunnel now,” said Luginbuhl. “It’s possible something’s going to happen.”
The state says results from their investigation are expected next summer or early fall.