Fenton jeweler losing Valentine’s Day business, demands answers for broken pipes

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FENTON (WJRT) (2/13/2019) - On day 14 of cleaning up the mess a busted frozen pipe left behind, the owners of Sawyer Jewelers in Fenton are devastated.

As if the cost of damages wasn't enough, they're losing big business this week, too.

"Valentine's is very important. I think with any retail establishment, when you miss your holiday, it takes months and months and months and sometimes the whole year, it may take me 'til Christmas to catch up what was lost," owner Chip Beltinck explained.

He added he was expecting this holiday's sales to be even bigger than last year's, too because of the way the economy has changed.

But, instead of working long hours helping new customers, he's working long hours dealing with contractors.

The night of Thursday, January 31st, he said water came pouring into his 1st floor unit in Fenton's Cornerstone Building. Beltinck said it came from a burst pipe on the 3rd floor, likely frozen by those subzero temperatures that week.

So far, he's calculated the damage has cost them about $350,000.

"Water is a vicious, vicious catastrophe," he said. "I never knew until I saw what happened here. I almost think it's worse than fire, you know, because you have to eliminate anything with moisture or you could end up with mold or issues like that."

It's damage he said he should've predicted. He explained that the Cornerstone Building, located at 134 N. Leroy Street, houses a salon, two restaurants and several apartments. And, since construction was completed in 2015, Beltinck said at least one pipe has burst every year. Last month, it was two in two weeks.

"How would you like to use my insurance a couple of times like I just did? It's very difficult," he said. "Your premiums go up, all over something that is not your fault. It's very frustrating. And, no one wants to own it."

Beltinck said it's Corlin Builders that should step up. He believes they didn't properly insulate the piping when constructing the property.

"Nobody has still came to me to prove it any different," he said.

Corlin Builders said they don't own the building. In a statement, the company explained the City approved the designs; and "The building was built to those specifications by the construction company we hired, and the city and state completed inspections throughout the construction process. All inspections were passed and we were granted a certificate of occupancy."

Beltinck responded, "There's people out there that know what to do and what the answer is; and if it takes some time and we have to tear a few more units apart to fix it, then that's what we have to do. Because, we can't have this happen again. This is devastating."

The property management company, Piper Management, said they're communicating with insurance companies and working with experts to determine how to prevent this mess from happening again. A spokesman explained that includes talking with forensic engineers who will inspect the units and determine what changes need to be made.

Corlin is believed to be involved in the construction of the 111 Leroy Place project set to break ground this spring in Downtown Fenton. Beltinck said they shouldn't be allowed to start that until his building's issues are addressed.

The City's Building and Zoning Administrator said he doesn't have any concerns with the company at this point.

Beltinck also noted while Sawyers isn't taking in any new customers right now, they are releasing jewelry with the proper slips and identification.

"We're trying to do it by appointment. We have someone here - I've got two ladies here every day, my employees. They're here very day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. If you have a question, I'd stay close to Facebook and our website, we'll tell you exactly what's going on and when we're going to be open," he said.

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