Water rights

Published 11:31 am Thursday, December 14, 2017

AHOSKIE – Compromise.

That’s what appears to be the outcome after an Ahoskie resident voiced concern over the amount of her water bill before the Ahoskie Town Council a month ago.

At the November Council meeting on Tuesday, Jennifer Patterson came before the board hoping for first, an explanation, and then a reduction, on charges of $932: $451 for water, and $481 for sewer – roughly 73,410 gallons of water used over a four day period – for which she was billed in the month of September.

While there was some dispute as to whether the excessive usage was caused by an undetermined leak, a faulty water meter, or otherwise, a motion was made for Patterson to pay the 12-month average of her water/sewer bill – $91.06.  In the meantime, the water meter could be checked along with results from a licensed plumber that might reveal a possible leak.  A suggestion was also made that Council consider a water bill adjustment policy for all the town’s customers.

Tuesday, Patterson was back before Council to hear the results and recommendations.  She also appealed for establishment of an adjustment policy.

“I don’t know who else has experienced this problem,” she said. “But I do think it’s important that the policy should be reviewed and a change made that is friendly to the citizens.”

Town Manager Kerry McDuffie and his staff’s results of Patterson’s water meter analysis showed the old meter was operating properly after it was sent for testing. The replaced meter showed from Oct. 13-to-Nov. 15 the old meter usage showed 17,153 gallons, while the new meter only had two gallons used when the meter was read on Nov. 15, for November billing.

McDuffie said Patterson would not be billed for the usage on the old meter of 17,153 gallons while they awaited the test results of the old meter. Therefore, her November bill would total $67.88.

The meter test results came in on Dec. 7 verifying the old meter’s accuracy.

McDuffie said assuming the 17,153 gallons used was due to a leaking toilet, the town policy states they should bill $86.97 for water usage and $10.71 for sewer.

Under current town policy Patterson would be required to pay: the previous unpaid amount of $360.81, plus the unbilled November water bill of $86.97, plus the unbilled November sewer bill of $10.71, or a total of $458.49.

McDuffie recommended the Board either direct staff on what the new policy for leak adjustments should be or add $458.49 to Patterson’s bill for December, due Jan. 15, along with current water bill.

Town Finance Officer Pat Bradley explained the current town policy states that water adjustments may be made if receipts for repair work by a licensed professional are presented; but cautioned that it is done on a case-by-case basis.  She also said there is a usage monitoring system, including by a meter technician, and at Town Hall. Alerting of customers is done by postcard, email, or door hanger. “And, if there is a homeowner located out of town, we will call and inform them (of irregularities),” Bradley said.

Discussion continued with some Council members calling for “putting humanality” into the discourse; plus uniformity and clarity on whichever action is taken.

Finally, in one of her final acts on Council, Linda Blackburn – who retired from the chamber after this month – seconded a motion by Mayor Pro Tem Rev. C. David Stackhouse for both Patterson to pay her regular water/sewer bill of $68.88, and that a final decision would be tabled for now and discussion would continue. It was also recommended that Patterson’s landlord honor a request to appear before Council at their upcoming meeting.

Wastewater Department manager Stewart White told Patterson and others present that to reveal possible future leaks, dye tablets are available at Town Hall for citizens and water customers to place in toilets. The tablets, White said, have been available for years and it was recommended a notice be placed in future water bills so everyone who might possibly be affected would now be informed.