Weatherford Democrat

December 23, 2013

Water customer claims faulty meter


Weatherford Democrat

— By JUDY SHERIDAN

A water and sewer customer threatened to sue the city for overcharging her during the Aledo City Council meeting Thursday.

Alice Bush, who lives in Villages of Aledo, said she has discussed her high utility bills with the city water department and asked them to replace her water meter for the past several years.

“They would come out, reread my meter and tell me there were no leaks,” she said, “that it must be a leak on my part, which was not true.”

Bush said a meter reading a couple months ago showed she had used 1,710 gallons of water in 24 hours, and she insisted city workers replace the meter.

“After they replaced the meter, I used 220 gallons in five days, which is 44 gallons in 24 hours,” she said. “Last month I used 840 gallons and this month I have used — from 11/15 to 12/16 — 1,060 gallons. So, once again, they were not right about the meter.”

Bush said the water department tested the old meter and found it to be incorrect, which she already knew.

“They can put it on their house if they want to; I have been robbed long enough,” she said. “This has put a physical and mental stress on me.”

Bush told the council she has paid 87.4 percent more for her water than she should have. She is asking the city for a 50 percent refund on her bills from 2009-13 for all months where she was billed for more than 2,000 gallons.

“I have eight years here,” she said, “but I will go back five.”

Mayor Kit Marshall and council members asked about Bush’s outdoor watering practices, how meters are checked, how leak tests are conducted and whether both the old and new meters could have been correct.

Further discussion was shut down by the city attorney, who reminded the council that state law limits the dialogue to fact and policy questions when issues are not listed on the agenda.

Public Works Director Gordon Smith said a new meter was installed at Bush’s residence in 2007, when all meters were replaced citywide. He said he looked for leaks several times in the last four months and sent the meter off to be checked, discovering it had a broken swing arm, but that other parts were working properly.

Smith said Bush had been offered a “possible adjustment” of $327 for the past four months because of the swing arm.

He added that he had never had a broken meter give sporadic readings.

“When a meter fails, most meters will either walk up or the counter doesn’t work,” he said.

Initially, Bush told the council she had an attorney but preferred not to incur the expense. Later, she took a harder line.

“If we don’t go back five years at 50 percent, I will have somebody in here, and we’ll go back eight years for whatever amount is over what it is this year,” she said.

Marshall said the issue would be on the agenda in January for discussion and action.

In other business the council approved a law enforcement contract with Parker County for two sheriff’s office deputies, postponed action on an ordinance that would require a masonry screening wall at least 8 feet high along the railroad track and asked Aledo Broadband to return in March with their proposal to lease antenna space on the water tank.

Law enforcement

As discussed during the budget process, the council approved an agreement with Parker County for two sheriff’s deputies this year instead of one.

The original agreement commits the city to $125,314 for patrol services between Oct. 1, 2013 and Sept. 30, 2014. The amount will be prorated, however, because the second deputy’s start date, contingent on council approval, was delayed at the county level, City Administrator Ken Pfeifer said.