Discrepancy in water billing at county lake creates $6,400 problem

The city of Marion recently discovered a large discrepancy in what it believes the Marion Improvement District No. 2 owes on its water bill, according to information David Mayfield, city administrator, presented at Monday?s meeting.

Mayfield told the council the error was discovered in December 2007, and the issue was with the water meter.

?The district purchased 750,000 gallons of water, but in one year?s time the amount was more than 1,600,000 gallons off,? he said.

When checking the amount of money the district billed to its customers and what the city was charging, the difference resulted in a loss of more than 1.67 million gallons to the city, Mayfield said.

To correct the problem, Mayfield said, the city sent an adjusted bill in February for $3,973.61? or $2.37 per 1,000 gallons of water.

Each month until October, he said, the city tacked on a 10 percent late fee and by Oct. 10, the bill had increased to $6,399.55.

Mayfield said each month until October, he did not hear from anyone with the district or its chairman, Dan Crumrine.

Then in October, Mayfield said, the improvement district, through its attorney, Robert Brookens, sent a check for $2,000, but the letter from the attorney was unsigned.

Mayor Mary Olson suggested shutting the water off, but she and the council all agreed that was not advisable.

City attorney Daniel Baldwin said that he had not talked with Brookens, but believed that negotiations are off with crumbiness and Improvement District No. 2 because its attorney is now involved.

The council asked Mayfield what he had done with the $2,000 check and he showed them it had not been cashed.

Mayfield was advised to send the check back to the district.

?The district is no different than any of our other customers,? Winkler said.

?(Marion Improvement District No. 2) got paid for that water ? so it was profit for them.?

Since the water was used, Winkler said the city should be paid.

?Maybe we could forego the 10 percent late fee,? he said.

Mayfield did want to reiterate that this is taxpayer money the council is talking about.

?What would our next step be?? Olson asked.

Baldwin said the city could consider a small limited civil action, which would fit an amount under $15,000.

?What is distressing is they want to renegotiate water in the future ? hard to do (under these circumstances),? Baldwin said.

The council finally decided to have Baldwin write a letter to Brookens and ask that the district pay the original bill of $3,973.61?with no late fees?in order to settle this.

Mayfield said he still believes the district needs to advise the city when there is a breach of the water system or when meters are read.

He said none of those things are being done right now.

Mayfield also thinks every 12 months they should set the calibration and both the city and district need to read the meter on the same day.

Marion Improvement District No. 2 is east of Marion and services residents near the Marion County Lake.

In other business:

n The city clerk?s office will be closed Thursday and Friday, Nov. 13-14 so that Angela Lange and her assistant can attend training in Wichita.

n The council approved Bucks for Building Application for Todd and Shawna Winter. Bucks for Building is an incentive program incorporating local businesses.

n Harvey Sanders, public works director, said volume was down during the city-wide clean up week held Monday through Friday, Oct. 20-24.

He attributed part of the reason to weather.

n After some discussion, the council approved an event agreement between Chingawassa Days Inc. and the city. A few points requiring clarification involved the length of the agreement, which is open-ended, and insurance concerns depending on what the group brings to the community.

The council approved the contract.

n Approval of position description for the city administrator was tabled because of language changes from the original document.

It will be brought back at the Nov. 17 meeting.

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