County reimburses after water over-billed for years

Kneehill County council unanimously agreed to reimburse a ratepayer. ECA Review/Submitted
Written by Stu Salkeld

Kneehill County council unanimously agreed to reimburse a ratepayer who was over billed on a water account for years after a routine inspection revealed two water metres on a single line. ECA Review/Submitted

Kneehill County council unanimously agreed to reimburse a ratepayer who was over-billed on a water account for years after a routine inspection revealed two water meters on a single line. The reimbursement was decided at the Sept. 13 regular meeting of council.

Councillors heard a report from John McKiernan, manager of environmental services, regarding a request to reimburse about $9,000 in water meter overcharges and other billing at a farm residence dating back a number of years.

“Routine water meter reading detected a possible water leak on a meter located at 203042A Twp 2-85,” stated McKiernan’s report. “A utility operator attended the site and determined that two existing water meters were installed on the same line.

“Through the investigation it was found that three houses occupy this yard and that there are water meters installed within two of the houses. The connection to the water service is through 203042A Twp Rd 2-85 and from this house, private plumbing services the other two houses. 203042 does not have a water meter installed and 203042B has the other meter installed. The private plumbing did not effectively separate the two water meters resulting in the first meter reading the entire water consumption and the second meter recorded water which had already passed through the first meter.

“Even though there are only two meters installed, monthly maintenance fees have been charged for three meters, these fees have historically been $25 per month per meter. The water consumption fees charged historically coincided with the water rates as per the master rates bylaw at the time.

“This system was originally the privately run Churchill Water Co-op. Kneehill County assumed operations in 2008 and meters were replaced at some point, although no other infrastructure was changed. The infrastructure in question is private and not county-owned other than the water meters.”

A representative of the property owner sent the request to reimburse.

“I am writing to you, rather than calling, so that we have a clear basis on which to proceed,” stated the redacted letter which also referred to the account holder in question as the Baumgartners.
“Before we implement any plumbing changes to bypass the duplicate reading issues and the second meter, the matter of the over billing at the farm needs to be addressed.

“In speaking with the owners they are eager to both correct the plumbing so that this does not occur in the future and to be reimbursed for the over billing that has been going on for so long.
“They have asked me to do what I can to effect those two outcomes before getting involved themselves. They live in Germany as you may know…”

McKiernan noted there were three options for councillors to consider including reimbursing over $9,000 for all charges related to this situation, reimbursing almost $6,000 for only water charges and maintenance fees or declining the request entirely.

He also pointed out county staff compared their records with documents sent by the Baumgartners and they match up.

Coun. Ken King asked if the family is going to remove the second water meter. McKiernan stated he didn’t know.

Coun. Debbie Penner stated it looked to her like the Baumgartners had the intention of renting the property as people who rent often put a second meter on. Penner stated she felt the monthly fee for the second meter shouldn’t be reimbursed. However, she supported reimbursing the excess water charges and maintenance charges.

Coun. Wade Christie agreed with Penner, noting there is no benefit to Kneehill County to have two water meters there. Christie stated if the second meter stays on the line, the property owner should pay for it.

Reeve Jerry Wittstock said the property owners must have requested the second meter be put on the line. “Somewhere along the line there was a request to have those two meters there,” said Wittstock who added there was no request to remove it.

Councillors unanimously approved a motion to reimburse the account holder $5,882.87 for only water charges on account #060220.00 and maintenance fees on account #060240.00.

Stu Salkeld
Local Journalism Initiative reporter
ECA Review

About the author

Stu Salkeld

Stu Salkeld, who has upwards of 28 years of experience in the Alberta community newspaper industry, is now covering councils and other news in the Stettler region and has experience working in the area as well.

He has joined the ECA Review as a Local Journalism Initiative Journalist.

Stu earned his two-year diploma in print journalism from SAIT in Calgary from 1993 to ’95 and was raised in Oyen, Alta., one of the communities within the ECA Review’s coverage area.