Columbus considers options for weather-related spikes in water billsPublished 11:26pm Monday, January 27, 2014
When water leaks happen, water bills can surge sky high, and the recent spate of winter storms resulted in an increase in cracks, leaks and water bills in Columbus.
In the last billing cycle, one commercial user had a leak on their side of the meter that lost 400,000 gallons, and their average use was 30,000 gallons, said Jonathan Kanipe, town manager. One residential user had a leak of 68,000 gallons on their side of the meter and their average use was 100 gallons, he said.
Under the current policy, if a leak occurs in a customer’s property or home up to the water meter, the customer bears responsibility for payment. The town maintenance crew repairs anything on the street side of the water meter. The existing policy allows for one adjustment to billing annually.
Kanipe requested feedback from the council on changing the wording and policy. A customer typically will bring in a bill and request that the staff adjust the bill to the average monthly cost. Sometimes the water billing staff will notice an unusually high amount of usage on an exception report that highlights abnormal readings, and the public works crew will go back out to these customers and check the meters a second time.
Councilwoman Margaret Metcalf suggested adjustments could occur more than once a year if situations called for that type of response, particularly if a leak occurs through no fault of the homeowner. Councilman Ricky McAllister supported this view. Metcalf also suggested a forgiveness clause for weather-related leaks. Mayor Eric McIntyre suggested capping the monetary adjustment of the bill for residential customers. Kanipe agreed to prepare more information for next month’s meeting.
If a water bill is excessively high or water usage is very high, the town hall can be reached immediately at 828-894-8236. Staff said they will make every attempt to investigate and solve the source of the problem.