Cassville Public Works to propose water leak ordinance

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Proposal would put more accountability on homeowners for water leaks, broken pipes

Steve Walensky, city of Cassville public works director, is planning to propose an ordinance in March that would change the way customers are charged for water leaks.

According to the city code, "When a utility customer has an unavoidable water leak, which results in extraordinary expense to the utility customer, the city may bill the customer for that billing cycle an amount equal to the average utility bill of the past three months."

The city also verifies the high water usage resulted from the leak, and that the leak was fixed. This process may be used one time for each three-month period, and includes the averaging of water bills, at a cost of $3.62 per 1,000 gallons used, and sewer bills, at a cost of $6.53 per 1,000 gallons. Sewer bills are tallied according to water usage.

Walensky said the ordinance he plans to propose would do away with the averaging of water bills, only averaging sewer bills, because water leaked due to a broken pipe does not actually go through the sewer system.

"In talking to other cities in the area, they charge for water loss in leaks, but not the sewer," Walensky said. "It still costs us money to pump that water no matter what, but we cannot justify charging for that water on sewer bills when it is a water leak and never goes through the sewer system."

Walensky said the city had numerous leaks during the cold spell in January, and the city was crediting customers using the three-month average system, even though some of the leaks were avoidable.

"Some of those leaks could have been avoided by dripping water or keeping certain pipes warmer, but we compensated those customers anyway," he said.

Bill Shiveley, mayor of Cassville, said he hopes the proposal put forward will be fair to the city and to its customers.

"I think it needs to be fair, because if it's a true water leak on their side, we charge based on use," he said. "It is not our fault if someone has an avoidable water leak."

Walensky said a dollar amount of water losses, due to leaks and due to crediting customers for leaks that were deemed as avoidable, could not be determined at this time. He said tallying the losses is tough, because the city is in the middle of its water meter replacement project.

Walensky said the ordinance to change how leaks are handled will be proposed at the city council meeting on March 10.

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