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City explains high water bills

Published: Thursday, February 16, 2012 at 2:18 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 16, 2012 at 2:18 p.m.

Several residents reported receiving an unwelcome surprise recently when they opened up their January utility statement: their water use appeared to have suddenly skyrocketed, and their bill had gone up along with it.

Some admitted to using a little extra water because of the dry winter, others maintained they hadn't changed their consumption much at all, but none believed they'd increased their water use that much.

All were concerned that the bill would affect their yearly sewer rate, which is calculated based on a person's use during the winter months.

But January's bill was a complication of the city changing the way it bills utility customers, said the city's finance Director Bill Mushallo. He emphasized that this year's January usage wouldn't be factored into the next fiscal year's sewer calculation.

The explanation goes like this: For the previous year and a half the city billed for water and sewer usage every month, even though the meters were only read on a bimonthly basis. The usage from each reading was divided in half and billed over the course of two months.

Starting this January, the city moved to reading meters on a monthly basis so that the bill for a given month would really reflect that month's usage. But in order to transition from the old system to the new monthly reading system, January meter readings had to incorporate the previous unbilled usage.

This resulted in some customers being billed in higher tiers than usual, causing the cost to jump. To correct that, the city has applied a credit to customers' billing accounts for any excess charges in January.

The city has figured the amount of that excess charge by dividing January's consumption into two parts and recalculating the tiers. Customers who received a January bill with consumption charges in tiers 2 or higher will see a credit on their February bill based this recalculation, said Mushallo.

The city has provided an explanation online as well.
— By JAMIE HANSEN, ARGUS-COURIER STAFF

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