Water Bills 3.0 and We’re Not Done Yet

On last night’s Select Board call, the first public session item was water billing. What a long strange trip it’s been, and it’s not over yet. While other exciting items were discussed (and some tabled because presenters were AWOL), this is the only item the Owl is going to cover here. For other news, please go to the videotape (Weston Media Center).

Here’s the deal: there is no deal. It could not be completely resolved last night because it is unclear yet how to fairly fix the issue with the billings of those accounts with over seven months of water usage that pushed some people into higher-priced tiers. The Owl is one of these folks.

But let’s start at the “beginning.” Leon Gaumond, Weston’s Town Manager, said that the high water bills were generally attributable to the pandemic’s higher home usage and the late meter readings. In the case of 14 extremely lucky individuals (irony) with astronomical bills, they do believe there were errors in reading or in transcription. Those folks will be receiving abatements.

So outside of the Unlucky 14, the Town has discoverd that 576 accounts are affected by the scenario that a late meter reading bumped someone to a higher tier (from 1 to 2, or 2 to 3). Those bils totaled would equal $65,000 in revenue. The individuals with the highest use may be affected to the tune of $330 for the joy of the late reading.

What to do, you ask? Well, the town says we can’t simply pay what we think is fair. That’s actually a direct quote. But as of yet there is no answer to that first question. Mr. Houston suggested pro-rating the tiers upward, while the other suggestion was to pro-rate the consumption downwards. And yes, that is going to take more time to figure out. Tick tock, cue Jeopardy music.

The Town has already said that there would be no interest charged on water bills until June 15. Last night a vote was taken that water bills that are contested would have no interest charged for June 15-30. What is unclear to the Owl and bears investigating is if all of the 576 accounts are automatically “contested bills” and are going to be under the interest-free additional two weeks, or if the residents should pay the part of the bill they believe is correct (say pro-rating it to six months) by June 15 because that is not contested, or if they should pay everything because no one wants to pay interest. No one. They will get credited back, it is clear, but who wants a water credit? Not me. Although maybe they could apply against a very large library fine balance at WPL. Hmmm.

Bottom line: the town needs the revenues to be on the books at June 30, the end of the fiscal year. There will be one more Select Board meeting about water bills on June 14, but you’re on your own for that one. The Owl celebrates flag day and is unavailable for note-taking.

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