Saturday, June 24, 2017

Hardin resident’s water bill skyrockets following ‘emergency situation’

Hardin City Council
A water valve problem spiraled out of control recently to the tune of a recorded 800,000 gallons for Hardin resident Laurie Tschetter, manager of the Grandview Campground and Arrowhead Mobile Home Park. For the month of January, she said, her water bill was about $120. The following month, when her basement flooded, it skyrocketed to more than $5,000.
 
According to Tschetter, because she asked for help from the City of Hardin during an “emergency situation” on Saturday, Feb. 11 and received none for an extended period, the city bears responsibility for the waste. She had been under the impression that a city worker would come over to shut off the master meter, she said, but this didn’t occur until Feb. 23.
 
The city had checked her meter around Feb. 14, she said, and hadn’t notified her of the increase in her water bill.
 
“I don’t feel that I should have to be responsible for this…when I asked for help,” Tschetter told members of the Hardin City Council during a March 7 meeting. “I’ve been here for 30 years and not one time, when there was a major emergency, was I told ‘no.’”
 
Though local ordinance prevents city workers from aiding in maintenance issues involving private property, Tschetter’s problem was that she couldn’t find a way to turn off her residence’s water valve. Maintenance, she contended, was not the issue.
 
Superintendent Russell Dill, for his part, told the council he was never asked to turn off the valve in the meter pit. Rather, he continued, Tschetter had asked them for city keys to shut off the basement valve on Feb. 11, the day when she noticed the leaking problem.
 
He was notified that Tschetter had water in her basement, Dill said, but at the time, neither Tschetter nor her helper Cory Kenney of Cory Kenney Construction were aware of the leak’s source. It could have been either ground water or city water, he continued.
 
“I called the following Monday and asked for the keys back,” Dill said. “Ms. Tschetter then asked if the city would shut that one valve off on the private water main system. I indicated to her that we’re not going to work on a private water main system.”
 
“No, you never said that,” Tschetter interjected.
 
“So, anyway,” Dill continued, “I did not hear any other communication until our guys called me on the 23rd of February, saying the meter had used a certain amount of gallons.
 
“The issue is you never called us to shut down the master meter. We were not aware of a leak.”
 
Tschetter had attempted to use her key and others on the water system, but they didn’t work. This problem was brought to her attention, she said, when trying to shut off the water for system maintenance in November 2016.
 
“We had some problems at that point and it’s just been getting steadily worse over the years,” Tschetter said. “We’d had a really, really hard time and almost didn’t get the wheel off.”
 
To prepare for freezing temperatures, Tschetter said, she and Kenney went into her basement and analyzed the situation. The basement valve, they decided, was in an area they believed to be safe from the winter chill.
 
“The valve was in a very protected area in the back corner. It was wrapped up and we watched it as closely as we could,” Tschetter said. “Nobody, I don’t think, would have ever thought that it would get that cold.”
 
Mayor Jack Lane ended discussion on the matter for the evening by referring it to the city’s Water and Sewer Committee. The committee will meet March 21, shortly before that day’s 7:30 p.m. council meeting.
 
Before the council moved to the next subject, Dill requested that Tschetter only pay her average water bill of about $120 until the end of the March 21 meeting. The request, Lane said, was duly noted.
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