Sanctuary development behind on paying Columbus water bill

Published 12:45 pm Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Town of Columbus is looking into what its legal responsibilities are in maintaining the Sanctuary developments water system now that the development has fallen $3,500 behind on water service payments.

Columbus officials say they have tried unsuccessfully to contact Sanctuary developers about the past due bill.

Columbus Town Council last week directed new Columbus Town Manager Jonathan Kanipe to look at the towns agreement with Sanctuary regarding water service.

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Under a policy approved in 2008, Columbus gives water customers 11 days after the due date to pay their bill. If the bill has not been paid after 11 days, the town shuts off the water service.

In the Sanctuary development’s case, the town cannot shut off service because although the development is behind on its bill, the homeowners have paid their bills on time, Columbus officials said last week.

Mayor Pro-tem Richard Hall, who ran the Columbus town council meeting last week in Mayor Eric McIntyres absence, said the town is not responsible for the water system in the Sanctuary, but the town does have to provide water to the homes, the meters and pumps.

Our policy is if a customer doesnt pay the bill, we cut the water off, Hall said, but, the problem is the homeowners are paying their bills.

The town last year decided to install a master meter at the base of the Sanctuary property to meter all the water that goes into the development.

The homeowners also have separate meters. The town subtracts the amounts of the&bsp; homeowners’ readings from the master meter and bills each individual homeowner. The remainder is then billed to developers.

The town is also being paid $250 per month to maintain the developments water system, but the town does not own the system.

The Sanctuary issue came up last week when Columbus council member Margaret Metcalf asked why the town is doing work related to water service within the Sanctuary development if the town installed a master meter to allow the developers to handle their own water.

Town attorney Bailey Nager explained that the town installed the master meter when it discovered that water was going into the development that wasnt being paid for by the individual homeowners.

Sanctuary officials said they didnt want to be in the water business for the homes, so the town agreed to read meters at the existing homes, but any future homes built since the master meter will be the responsibility of the development. The town also agreed to accept $250 per month to maintain the system for the Sanctuary, Nager said.

At one point there was talk of the Sanctuary wanting to be voluntarily annexed into Columbus, but a voluntary annexation requires 100 percent participation by all property owners and a petition was never brought before council.

Sanctuary developers did ask the town to take over its water system a few years ago and the town responded that in order to take over the system, the Sanctuary would need to be voluntarily annexed.

Columbus council urged Kanipe to continue to try to contact developers regarding the delinquent bill and plan to discuss the issue at a future meeting.