By Andrea McCann
The Washington City Council on Monday had an extensive discussion on the city’s water leak adjustment policy.
The policy came to the attention of Councilman Blake Chambers after one of his constituents, Wayne Acton, had a huge, unexplained spike in his water bill one month. The current policy allows for an adjustment if the customer finds a leak and has it repaired. In Acton’s case, he went through all the appropriate steps with the city’s water department to locate a leak and test the water meter, but found nothing amiss. Thus, he did not qualify for an adjustment, so he paid the bill with prejudice.
Normally, Acton said, they use six to eight units of water a month, maybe up to 11 during the growing season when they’re watering plants. However, with this year’s water conservancy request, he said they’d used five units the month before the spike, which showed their usage to be 31 units. The following month, they used eight units.
Based on one unit being 750 gallons, that’s a jump from 3,750 gallons to 23,250 gallons in one month’s time, then back down to 6,000 gallons in another month.
“I know in my heart we couldn’t have used that much,” Acton said of the 23,250 gallons. “It’s an excessive amount. It’s not a realistic amount.”
Council members questioned Acton on whether an outdoor faucet might have been left on or a hose might have leaked.
“Does anybody have any idea what my yard would look like if that amount of water leaked out of a hose?” he asked rhetorically.
Other suggestions were a leaky toilet or faucet, a malfunctioning water softener or a broken pipe. But the Actons don’t have a water softener. And Acton pointed out a leak would not have corrected itself before the following month’s bill arrived, and it would’ve shown up on the meter when it was checked. He said he did find very minor leaks in a toilet and a sink that he repaired, but they would only have amounted to roughly an extra 100 gallons a month.
“You’re not gonna have a broken pipe that gets unbroken,” he added.
“Twenty-six additional units in a month’s time is just unbelievable.”
There was some discussion about whether it might be a mechanical quirk, and Water Superintendent Charlie Kane said the city’s water meters range in age from brand new to 50 years old. An Automated Meter Reading system is gradually being put into place, so some homes have the new AMR meters, which show detailed usage information, but the Acton’s home isn’t one of those.
“Mechanical things can act up,” Councilman Mike Singleton said.
Utility Office Manager Anita Ash said her office sees about one mystery spike a month. Chambers said he’d like to see the council amend the current water adjustment policy to help those people whose bills are elevated because of the mystery spikes.
“You have to be consistent or my office is just going to be one big revolving door all the time,” Ash said.
Ultimately, it was decided that Chambers would continue to look into the matter further and report back to the council with options.
City attorney Tim Dant opened bids for a 2013 Rescue/Pumper Fire Apparatus. Pierce Manufacturing of Appleton, Wis., bid $363,217; E-ONE of St. John, Ind., bid $350,899; and MidAmerica Fire and Safety LLC of Evansville bid $353,239 with an additional $7,016 headset option. The bids were referred to the Board of Public Works and Safety, which later referred them to Fire Chief Dave Rhoads for review.
Rhoads said the current trucks are 13 and 15 years old, and the backups are 29 years old.
He said the department has been working on getting a new truck for three years. They received a $48,000 grant toward its purchase. Rhoads suggested moving ahead as soon as possible after he makes his recommendation before prices increase at the end of the year or the bids expire.
The council members approved 2013 contracts with Daviess County Economic Development Corp. for $16,391; Washington Little League for $1,706; PowerHouse for $3,900; Retired Senior Volunteer Program for $8,413; YMCA for $334; Senior and Family Services for $13,075; Daviess County Emergency Management for $4,371; Connections for $1,500; and Washington Soccer Federation for $1,000.
In other business, the council:
• approved “an ordinance for appropriation and tax rate for 2013” after its final reading.
• approved 2013 holidays for city employees and an amended city council meeting schedule.
• decided to meet only once in December since the second monthly meeting would fall on Christmas Eve.
• saw a demonstration by Street Commissioner Ernie Evans of the new high-reflectivity street signs compared to the old engineering-grade signs. The department received grants for sign inventory and replacement, which is federally mandated.
At the Board of Public Works and Safety meeting following the council meeting, the board members approved a grant agreement with the Indiana Department of Transportation to assist with operating costs for the city’s transit system.
According to grant coordinator Chuck Martindale, about 70 percent of the operating costs should be paid by state and federal subsidies.
In addition, 30-mph speed limit signs were approved for Eastside Park Road between E. National Highway and Glenwood Drive; an encroachment agreement with Vectren was approved for an easement area near the new interstate on the east side; a contract was approved with Midwestern Engineers for design of possible future water system improvements that would provide better fire protection on the east side, increase water pressure and replace old water mains that keep breaking; and geotechnical services and right of way engineering services involved in moving the U.S. 50 interchange with I-69 were approved, with 80 percent being paid by an INDOT grant and the other 20 percent split among the city, county and Daviess County Economic Development Corp. coffers.