She and her husband, who has since passed away, bought the home in 1952 as newlyweds, and they raised two children there.
The Tri-State Bun factory — part of a baking conglomerate that includes Pechter’s Baking Group, RP Baking and Rockland Bakery — always seemed to be a good neighbor, said the 80-something Songile.
Until Aug. 22, 2013.
On that day, Songile went into her yard and saw a white covering on everything, she said.
“It was flour and looked like an early snowfall,” she said. “It was covering the yard, the garage roof, the garden and the entire yard next store. My windows and screens were covered.”
The next day, she said, the bakery sent employees over to start cleaning the property.
“The employees used water hoses and hosed down the garage roof and the outside walls,” she said. “They hosed down the lawn, however, after they finished cleaning, there were still some patches of the flour remaining on the ground.”
And, she said, they never cleaned the windows.
She said she made many requests for additional cleaning that spanned several weeks. No one came, so Songile hired a relative to scrub her 27 windows and screens for $300.
When she asked Tri-State to pay the cost, she said it only offered to pay $150 because there was no receipt from a professional cleaning service.
“So I suggested receiving baking products in replacement of the $150,” she said. “(The employee) thought that was a good idea, however I only got a cheese babka and a pie that was not equal to $150.”
Songile let it go.
THE SECOND INCIDENT
On the morning of Jan. 6, Songile woke to the sound of a huge blast.
“I went to the back porch windows and saw that my windows were covered with a substance — a mixture of flour and corn meal,” she said. “I went down and found my back door, the garage, the roof, the entire property was covered with this flour/corn meal. It was a heavier coating than the first incident.”
Apparently, a pipe had burst during a delivery of the mixture, and it spewed it all over the immediate neighborhood.
Songile’s first call was to police, and the responding officer again was unsuccessful in reaching someone from the company.
The next day, Songile said, she called the health department. It was able to reach a human resources rep at the bakery named Miryan Flores, health department records show.
“Miryan had first advised me to have Mrs. Songile hire someone to clean up and Pechter’s would reimburse her for the cleaning fees, but all parties agreed that Pechter’s should take responsibility for this and they should either pay a private company or have their own personnel clean,” the mess, the health department report said.
The report also said Flores agreed to contact Songile.
But four days later, Songile said, she still hadn’t heard from the company.
Songile again contacted the health department, which was confirmed in the health department report. Songile said she wanted a professional cleaner — not just Pechter’s employees — to do the job. The health department then advised Songile it didn’t really have any jurisdiction over the incident, and that she may want to seek legal advice.
Songile said she continued to try to reach someone at the company, to no avail.
She then called her homeowners insurance company, she said, but Songile decided not to put in a claim because Pechter’s told the health department it would pay for the professional cleaning. The insurance company recommended a clean-up firm, and Songile got an estimate.
The estimate, dated Jan. 16, recommended a power wash of the home, the garage and all surrounding concrete at a price of $5,500. Separately, it recommended the washing of parts of the interior of the home and the removal of two wall air conditioner units, which were also covered in the flour and corn meal. The cost? Another $725.
The company recommended waiting for the warmer weather, and it said it would need a deposit before starting the work.
Songile also got an estimate for her damaged landscaping. It would cost $3,800 to remove the contaminated lawn and install new, and remove and replace damaged plant material.
After Songile received the estimates, she said she reached out to Flores.
But Flores recommended Songile talk to the Tri-State Buns plant manager Pedro Sousa.
“I tried calling Mr. Sousa for several days but was only getting his voice mail. I left at least 10 messages at different times of the day asking him to call me. He never responded to me,” Songile said. “I called him because I wanted something in writing from Tri-State Bun.”
When spring arrived, Songile called the cleaning company, which said it could start the job during the first or second week of May, depending on the weather. It still needed a deposit for the work but Sousa hadn’t responded about the job, Songile said the clean-up company told her.
So Songile tried on May 5 to knock on the factory door to speak to Sousa, she said, but other employees said he was unavailable.
She once again asked the health department for help. A rep came to her home, she said, and together they went over to Tri-State to see Sousa, but again he was unavailable. Songile said an employee suggested they try the company’s human resources department in a different location in town.
But this was the location for Pechter’s HR folks, and they told Songile they had nothing to do with Tri-State, Songile said.
Songile said the health department rep said she’d look into sending Sousa a summons to appear, but a few days later, that hope was dashed.
“Although this situation was unfortunate to you as a home owner, it was an accident and the damages incurred do not present any type of health hazard,” said a letter from the health department. “After further discussion with the Town Attorney we both feel that we do not have a legal reason to issue a summons to the bakery and we can no longer be involved in this matter.”
Songile didn’t know what else to do.
“I still track corn meal/flour into my home. My windows are still coated with the mixture all these months later,” Songile said. “I cannot move past this, as Tri-State is uncooperative in paying for the damage. They have repaired the pipe and the damage caused to their property.”
“All I want them to do is to clean up their mess,” she said. “Nothing else.”
GETTING THE RUNAROUND
We reviewed Songile’s paperwork, and then we took a closer look at the company.
Tri-State Buns is part of a baking conglomerate owned by the Battaglia family — five brothers and a dad. It includes several companies, including RP Baking, Rockland Bakery and Pechter’s Baking Group.
Public records show Anthony Battaglia is the CEO of Tri-State, so we went on a long journey to contact him.
We left him a voicemail message at the main Tri-State number.
Then, we reached a receptionist at Pechter’s, and she promised to give Anthony Battaglia a message to call us.
Then we called Pechter’s HR rep, Miryan Flores, who said we’d need to talk to plant manager Pedro Sousa.
But Sousa said he wasn’t the right guy, and we needed to talk to Teresa Czubak, who handled HR for Tri-State.
Czubak suggested we talk to Sousa. We explained he sent us to her, and really, all we wanted was to talk to Anthony Battaglia. She promised to give him a message.
Then we tried Michael Battaglia — Anthony’s brother — who according to the Rockland Bakery website is the director of sales. We asked him to get a message to Anthony Battaglia, but he never responded.
As a last resort, we sent Anthony Battaglia a message on LinkedIn, but that, too, wasn’t answered.
We sent one last message to Czubak of Tri-State’s HR, and she said Battaglia didn’t have a comment because he didn’t have all the information. So we sent it to Czubak, but we never heard back.
That leaves one pretty unresponsive bun company and a senior citizen’s home still covered in muck.
Songile’s only choice now may be to file an action in court to try to get the company to clean up the mess it made.
We’ll let you know what happens.