Owners to be alerted about unread water meters Resident's billing plight spurs policy

August 09, 1993|By Traci A. Johnson | Traci A. Johnson,Staff Writer

New Windsor residents will receive a note with their monthly bills telling them if their water meters have remained unread and why.

Mayor Jack A. Gullo Jr. said the change in billing comes after a resident complained about a leak the town meter reader failed to detect because he was not able to read the meter.

Albert Grimes, son of Councilman Kenny Grimes, earlier this year went to make a quarterly reading of the meter in the 300 block of Main St. The meter was at the end of the property, between the home and the street, said the resident, who asked not to be named.

The meter was submerged in water left after a snowfall, the resident said she was told.

"They said they couldn't read it because of water or snow or something," she said.

She was charged the basic rate of $10 for that quarter. Town policy dictates that when meters are not read for any reason -- in some cases, if a dog won't let the meter reader in the yard -- the resident is charged the basic rate.

The following quarter, Councilwoman Rebecca H. Harman read the meter. The water usage was 10 times higher than the resident normally uses.

"I saw that it was a lot higher," said Mr. Gullo, who added that this happened before he was elected in May. "There was definitely a noticeable difference."

The resident refused to pay the bill. She said that if the meter had not gone unread, the leak would have been discovered. Her daughter spoke to town officials on her behalf, the resident said.

"I found out there was a leak and I knew I would have to fix that," the resident said. "But I didn't think I should have to pay the bill for the water I didn't use."

Mr. Gullo agreed.

"If the meter were read or the resident notified that it had not been read, and she had read it herself, the leak could have been discovered more quickly," Mr. Gullo

said. "Because that was not done, it exacerbated the situation."

Town government has not imposed on the resident the penalty JTC for not paying the bill -- disconnection of service.

"We are trying to do what's most equitable for the resident," Mr. Gullo said. "Government is not inflexible, nor is it [without compassion]."

Mr. Gullo said the new policy should improve things in the future. "When you are told that your meter has not been read and why, that puts you on notice that you should make the effort to read it yourself and call it to the town's attention," Mr. Gullo said.

The resident said she does not anticipate any other problems with the meter reading. The meter has since been moved to her basement and can be read from outside.

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