ROGERSVILLE — When Kenneth Stapleton received a water bill three times higher than his normal usage, he dug up his water line and found a leak, which he repaired.
What he didn’t find out until a month later is that the Rogersville Water Commission sends out water bills a month behind.
A normal bill for Stapleton is around $70 per month.
Even though Stapleton repaired the leak at his Arrowhead Drive residence the same day he got that first bill for $258, it had actually been leaking for more than a month by the time it was fixed. A month later, he received a water bill for $1,963.
The Water Commission’s current policy calls for customers with large bills to be placed on a payment plan but doesn’t offer them a break on their bill.
On Tuesday, Templeton urged the commission to approve a new policy that can give relief to customers who rack up huge water bills due to leaks.
The commission has been wrestling with the problem for the past three months due to complaints about high bills caused by leaks both inside and outside the city limits.
Despite a lengthy discussion Tuesday, the commission didn’t come up with a solution and agreed to discuss a new leak policy during its upcoming budget workshop.
Commissioner Bill Sharp said he believes leak victims should receive a break on their sewer bill because the water that leaked out wasn’t treated in the sewer system.
Sharp’s motion to that effect failed for lack of a second, mainly because, according to other commissioners, it didn’t specifically state how much help sewer customers would receive.
Commissioner Mark DeWitte noted that Sharp’s motion also didn’t address non-resident water customers who aren’t on the sewer system.
“It’s a more clear-cut situation when you’re in the city and you’re on sewer, if you’re talking about forgiving the sewer portion, which I would tend to agree with. But you’ve got people outside of the city who don’t have a sewer portion of their bill. We would either have to figure out there’s some relief there we can give them, or we treat everyone across the board fairly. It wouldn’t be my preference, but there’s only one fair way, which is to make them pay for the water.”
Stapleton said he believes the Water Department should have detected 8,000 to 10,000 gallons of water being used every day by a residential customer and shut off his meter before it reached that point.
Water Commission Chairman Ed Pace told Stapleton they didn’t have an answer for him Tuesday evening, but they will discuss the issue and get back to him.
“I still feel like the customer has some responsibility,” Pace said. “We can’t have the customers depending on us to determine if they have a leak. The customer has to bear some responsibility. If he doesn’t, we’re going to be running around the county reimbursing people.”