Wednesday, February 26, 2014

City council starts changing policies and procedures regarding bill adjustments for water leaks

By Kayla Pickrell
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Several landowners' recent water leaks spiked their bills, and that sparked debate on how to adjust the bill-adjustment ordinance at the Midway City Council’s special meeting Tuesday afternoon.

Council Member Aaron Hamilton said one of the bills with a leak on the property was $1,500.

To catch leaks earlier and head off large adjustments, the council decided unanimously to read water meters twice a month, rather than the monthly readings already in effect. That won’t cost more, since meters are now read by radio.

“This is paying attention when there are high readings,” Council Member Sara Hicks said, “and helping people get them fixed as quickly as possible.”

Although nothing was set in stone, the council talked about doing weekly readings during cold weather to proactively catch leaks before they become a bigger problem. “It doesn’t need to be a policy, just a procedure,” Hamilton said.

Along with conducting readings twice a month, Council Member Dan Roller suggested training people to do the readings to make the process faster. Only one city employee now conducts the readings.

Mayor Tom Bozarth said, “We want to have a way where we can work with people the best we can.”

The council is looking to change the water and sewer ordinance of 2003, which allows bill adjustments only to those on the sewer system. Some farms are on city water but not sewer.

“What we’re talking about really is suggesting that we change the policy for those who don’t have sewer,” said Council Member Grayson Vandegrift.

The council appeared to agree that adjustments would be allowed once every 12 months if proper documentation was provided regarding information about the leak on the property. The adjustment would be based upon the average water bill from six months prior to the leak.

“At the very least, you’d want to determine the cause of the leak and the wear of the system,” City Attorney Phil Moloney said.

Roller suggested that the city put the cause of the leak at the top of the list, as long as the leak was fixed. “It would be a nightmare to try to determine why they are having water loss,” he said.

Shepard is looking over figures from the past water bills to bring to the next council meeting to help members make a decision on the ordinance, Bozarth said.

The council will meet again Monday, March 3 at 5:30 p.m.

Here's a video of most of the hour-long meeting, starting about 13 minutes in:

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