Customer gets their $2,100 bill lowered

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

By Clint Confehr

Senior Staff Writer

A Lewisburg water customer's monthly bill shot up from a monthly average of nearly $16 to more than $2,100 recently, and last week the utility board granted him a second break on the bill.

Gil Murray paid $568.75 for the bill that had been $2,162.50. Murray had a leaky pipe serving a mobile home he owns on Underpass Road, according to utility Superintendent Kenneth Carr who introduced Murray to the city Water and Wastewater Board on Thursday afternoon.

Murray was holding the leaky pipe as he spoke. It broke after the meter was read in January, Murray said.

The PVC pipe was between the water meter and a pressure regulator.

"The customer owns the pressure regulator," Carr said, responding to a question from Board member Ed Potts. "The city installed about 66 regulators on that line along Cornersville Road."

Those 66 regulators were installed "when we put the Cornersville Road booster station in and that's the only one where we've had a problem," Carr said.

Murray acknowledged that "city water service is a privilege, not a right," but that his average bill had been $15.71 and, with that usage, the volume of water that leaked was "10 years of water" for the mobile home.

Utility Board Chairman Hershel Davis noted that Murray had already been granted an "adjustment" on the errant water bill.

Potts asked, "What do you think would be fair?"

Murray: "I want to do my part... I'd split the difference with you where we are."

Murray's father owns the property, he said, and utility board member Billy Hill pointed out that the city should have a limit on such adjustments. Murray interjected that there was only a one-year warranty on the installation of the regulator.

There's a vacant trailer served by the customer service line, Carr explained Monday. Murray doesn't see it very often. Murray uses it as a source of water for his water supply tanks at his home.

Potts suggested that the board agree with Murray and the vote was unanimous among the three men on the board.

Murray's $2,162.50 bill had been lowered by $1,025 to $1,137.50 under administrative authority exercised by Carr. Under a standing policy, a formula was applied and it resulted in the lower bill. The $1,137.50 was split in two for the $568.75 bill paid Friday. The amount paid is more than 36 times the average bill for that tap.

Carr has seen such a situation before, "but it doesn't happen often," he said.