Marion water customers will get relief from possible billing overcharges as a result of an inquiry by the Record reported in last week’s edition.
Customers are supposed to receive 1,000 gallons in their monthly base charge, but missed reads in one or more months could cause customers to be billed $5.05 for those gallons when a manual read is done to catch up.
“It basically comes down to when you have a water meter that is functioning, but the radio transmitter either isn’t transmitting or the information isn’t passed,” city administrator Roger Holter told council members at Monday’s meeteing. “A meter could read 134, 134, 134 as we drive around, indicating 134,000 gallons of usage, yet the homeowner continues to use. Then when we would do a manual verification, the customer then would be charged for that water that had not been billed, but our current policy would not allow any credit for those months they didn’t receive any benefit because of defective equipment.”
That could result in extra charges of $5.05 per thousand gallons for each missed month.
Council members approved a fix in which customers would receive a $5.05 credit for months in which no usage was recorded due to mechanical failure, applied when a catch-up manual verification is done. Semiannual visual inspections of meters and transmitters will be initiated, which would in particular benefit low-usage customers whose malfunctioning meters might be overlooked because they don’t automatically get manual reads for aberrant readings.
Council member Chris Costello wanted clarification that the policy change wasn’t intended to trigger refunds of past discrepancies, and Holter affirmed that it would only apply to current and future customer complaints.
Several customers have contacted the newspaper to report finding this type of error on their water bills, of which one, a low-use customer, had eight months with no change in amount of water used.