Marion to sue lake district for unpaid bill

The city of Marion plans to file a lawsuit for money it?s owed by Marion Improvement District No. 2 for water. The decision was made at the Monday, Dec. 15 council meeting.

?This bill needs to be paid,? said Mayor Mary Olson.

At its meeting in mid-November, the council voted to charge Marion County Improve?ment District No. 2 $3,973.61 and not $6,399.55, which included a 10 percent penalty of $2,425.94 for eight months.

The issue first surfaced in December 2007 when an error was discovered on the improvement district?s 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,? said David Mayfield, city administrator.

To correct the problem, he said the city sent an adjusted water bill in February 2008 for $3,973.61.

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

Mayfield informed the council at its Nov. 3 meeting that the improvement district, through its attorney, Robert Brookens, sent a check for $2,000 in October, but the letter from the attorney was unsigned.

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

At the November meeting, Mayfield was advised to send the $2,000 check back to the district.

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

In mid-November, the Improvement District No. 2 attended the council meeting to have its side of the story heard.

Dan Crumrine, chair of the district, told the council the board did not want to deceive anyone and wanted to openly talk about the issue.

?It?s been a learning process for us, and it seemed nobody wanted to sit down and hear our side.?

Crumrine said the board believes the city of Marion has some responsibility in this as well. When the district sent a check for $2,000 to pay a portion of the water bill, Crumrine said, the board thought that was a good number and fair considering the contract and the city?s responsibility to ask for calibration when a possible discrepancy had occurred.

If the city were to request calibration, which would require flushing the system afterward, Crumrine said the city should be responsible for paying the extra water charge if the result of the testing is within plus or minus 2 percent.

Two other members of the board substantiated Crumrine?s concerns associated with the calibration issue and about the amount of water used.

One concern Mayfield said he had involved the 20th of every month as the date for reading meters and how this had not been the case for several months.

The board said that many times the meters were read on time, but the numbers might not be turned in for a few days.

Mayfield said he wanted a city employee to read the meter at the same time as the district did. The improvement district buys water from the city and then supplies that water to residents living near Marion County Lake.

In turn, lake residents are billed by the improvement district.

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