Rick and Debi Carter say the Ramona Municipal Water District mistakenly billed them twice for more than $700, but the water board said they’re responsible to pay their bills.
The Carters spoke to the board at its meeting Tuesday, asking for forgiveness of their August and October water bills.
District staff proposed a $535.18 credit to the Carters, but recommended that the water board not approve the appeal, as by law, the district cannot gift public funds.
The $535.18 figure was the difference between the August and October 2012 billings for the Carters and the average water usage during the summer of the previous four years.
“We had two bills of $700,” Rick told the board. “There’s no way I’ve used $700 worth of water on my property. It’s unbelievable we have two of these bills.”
The Carters said that after they received their first $700 bill, they cut down drastically on water, causing surprise and confusion for the subsequent $700 water bill.
“It’s physically impossible,” Debi said. “When was the last time our meter was calibrated?”
Richard Hannasch, district financial services director, said a meter master was set and that once water runs through the meter, the customer is responsible for the water, whether it’s used or due to a leakage.
John Brean, water operations superintendent for the district, said that meter on the Carters’ property is just 5 years old and cannot be calibrated. Meter masters help confirm that the meter is accurate.
“It did show areas of high usage,” Brean said of the Carters’ meter master.
General Manager David Barnum noted that the price of water per unit is about $5. According to the district’s website, one unit of water equates to 748 gallons.
By that standard, the Carters used about 140 units of water during each $700 billing period, or about 104,720 gallons of water.
Board member Darrell Beck told Rick and Debi that these things happen and the customer is responsible for paying the bill.
“We have a lot of these cases,” Beck told the homeowners. “I’m sorry... if the meter reads what it reads, the water belongs to the customer.”
Debbie said their previous highest water bill in the past year was just $289, and if it isn’t a meter mistake, perhaps it’s a clerical mistake.
Another incident was brought up during the meeting regarding a similar case in the Country Estates. The property owners also had high water use from July-September of this year and had a reported bill of $846.31. They were asking for payment forgiveness and $518.96 credit.
No one from the property showed up at the board meeting to speak on the item.
The board unanimously voted against crediting both property owners.
Have you received a high water bill recently? The water board encouraged residents to check for leaks in both their yards and their neighbor’s yards. You can learn how to read your meter on the water district’s website.
Editor's note: By law, he Ramona Municipal Water District staff and board cannot provide fee forgiveness for customers, as it's considered a gift of public funds.