Aberdeen Amends Policy for Appealing Water Bills
An “extraordinary” case of a high water bill due to a leak in a malfunctioning sprinkler system has led the Aberdeen Town Board to change its policy on adjustments to water bills.
The board voted 3-1 Thursday night to allow residents with irrigation- or water-only meters to pay an average of the past three billing cycles. Prior to the change, the town would only take 10,000 gallons off the total amount of water used on the disputed bill.
Commissioner Robbie Farrell cast the dissenting vote.
The change resulted from a discussion that started early this month when resident Kristen Wachob came to the board and asked for help with a $1,500 bill that resulted from her using 395,000 gallons of water during a two-month period. The problem, she told the board, occurred when she was out of town for a month and her sprinkler system malfunctioned.
The malfunction went undetected until the water bill arrived. Wachob had the faulty head fixed.
The Town Board deferred action on the matter at the prior meeting, opting to take it up for discussion Thursday night.
The commissioners agreed that there was no easy solution to the problem. Mayor Betsy Mofield called a high water bill like Wachob’s a “hard pill to swallow.”
“There is really no good water/sewer policy for leaks,” Mofield said.
Commissioner Walter Wright urged the board to help Wachob, saying he thought the board should be “sympathetic” in this case.
They considered other solutions, including determining how much the true cost of the water (such as treatment) used and then charging the resident, in this case that amount.
Public Works Director Rickie Monroe told the board the town has a lot of issues with water-only meters.
“We have complaints every billing period,” he said. “When you have 3,500 meters, somebody is going to have a leak.”
Monroe urged the board to consider an automatic meter system that would read the meters digitally without the need for public works employees to ride around and read them. That system, Monroe said, would allow for daily readings, which would quickly catch variances that could be caused by leaks or other problems.
In other business, the town commissioners voted unanimously to support Meridian Zero Degrees’ Rural Center Building Reuse Grant application. The board agreed to pay the 5 percent match, or $7,500. The grant amount is based on $5,000 per job created.
Representatives from Meridian told the board they hope to create 30 jobs, making the grant amount $150,000.
The board also added a public hearing to its Oct. 8 agenda to discuss the 2012 Small Business and Entrepreneurial Assis-tance Grant applicants.
Four businesses will be part of the application for the $250,000 grant. Those businesses are 111 Main, Meridian Zero Degrees, Specialized Services Personnel Inc. and UPro.
The board also voted unanimously to allocate no more than $60,000 for an upgrade of the town’s computer systems.
A third of that money is in the budget, and the remaining sum of $40,000 would come from the town’s general fund.
The systems will integrate all the various departments and allow for customer-friendly options like online water bill payment.
Contact Tom Embrey at (910) 693-2484 or tembrey@ thepilot.com.
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