Assistant City Solicitor and Acting Chief of Staff David Rodrigues appeared before the Common Council on Monday night to clear up confusion about new water rates being applied to water bills that included estimated water readings in the past.
Essentially, Rodrigues explained that the Water Commissioners are scheduling hearings for water bills abatements, in an effort to hear concerns from residents, who feel that adjustments to water bills based on previous estimated water meter readings, are causing them to owe too much.
At issue is the fact that current water meters around the city have to be manually read, in order for the water department to have an accurate accounting of how much water residents and rate payers are actually using.
However, since any number of obstacles can prevent the reading of water meters – such as an inaccessible water meter, an indoor water meter, inclement weather, etc. – the water department is often forced to estimate water usage for residents.
According to Rodrigues’ comments Monday night, estimated water bills are clearly marked as such, and include a message to the user to contact the water department for an actual reading at their convenience.
If a homeowner or water user does not contact the water department, then the estimated reading remains in place until an actual reading can be done.
From 2003 to 2012, the city did not adjust its water rates, but due to a recent move by the city to adjust the rates, recent adjustments to previously estimated water bills are causing concern for residents who fear they are now being charged the current water rate for water that was actually used under the old water rate.
Anyone who feels they are in this situation is encouraged to contact the water commissioners to request a water abatement hearing. The forms required to request such a hearing can also be obtained through the Mayor’s office.
Rodrigues also told the Council that only the water commissioners are able to make an adjustment to the water bills.
Additionally, the city’s recent decision to purchase new radio read, automatic water meters, means that the city will no longer have to rely on estimated water bills, once the city’s water meters are replaced.
It is also possible that as the city replaces water meters, they will have the opportunity to correct any long neglected water meter readings and actual readings of water meters can work out either in favor of the rate payer, if the estimates had been too high over the years, or they could wind up costing some rate payers more, if the estimates had been too low.