Letter: Broken meter leads to SG headache

By on June 16, 2010

This letter is about a high water bill we received recently from the village of Sugar Grove. Sugar Grove is our primary residence, but we have spent the past four winters in Florida.

Before leaving for Florida each year, we always turn off the water supply to our Sugar Grove residence at the valve located just ahead of the village’s water meter. This is just for safety in case a water leak should ever occur while we are away. With the water supply turned off, we have always understood the village’s need to continue billing us for its water, sewer line maintenance and garbage collection services, the basic minimum charges of which amounted to nearly $35 each month for us this past winter.

When we returned home from Florida on April 22, we turned our water supply back on, and the following day we discovered the water meter was leaking. The leaking water meter was replaced by the village on April 28, 2010.

Early in May, we received a month utility bill for $127.92 from the village, indicating we had used 17,000 gallons of water for the period from March 17, 2010, to April 15, 2010. That period of time was before we got back home and while our water supply was turned off. In fact, no one was even at our Sugar Grove residence. We reluctantly paid that bill but we did protest about $94 of the bill, because of it being associated with a strangely false (and impossible) 17,000 gallons of water usage.

The old water meter was subsequently tested by the village and found to be inoperative. I was finally advised that the meter would not register any water volume passing through it.

Discussions with village utility billing personnel and the finance director, as well as a detailed letter to the village administrator and finance director, have been of no avail in terms of getting any billing adjustment for our account.

These are the “professional” answers I got from Sugar Grove, despite the village’s records showing zero or minimal water usage for our account this past winter before the metering problem happened. The village’s finance director believes we used the 17,000 gallons of water because it was registered by the meter, and despite the meter having been subsequently removed, tested and found to be inoperative. In talking with Fox Metro Water Reclamation District, which had billed us for sewage treatment based on the same 17,000 gallons of water usage, they immediately offered to reduce their charges to be more in line with our historical water account history.

I know that no water would ever pass through the village’s water meter while we had the water supply shut off, a fact which Sugar Grove’s finance director just does not want to believe. It is a sad state of affairs when a local governmental official will believe a broken water meter before even trying to believe a human being. Only two retired people reside at our Sugar Grove residence, and even if we had been home, we would never be able to use nearly 570 gallons per day or 17,000 gallons of water in a month. After a nearly 35-year work career with a local regulated public utility, I know that meters can be faulty and over register, for reasons that often cannot be explained. In those cases, some ordinary common sense should be used when billing a customer.

Finally, I am even more disgusted about this matter now that I have also learned a nearby neighbor experienced the same excessive water meter registration problem with a Sugar Grove water meter. In that case, credit adjustments were allowed because a village employee witnessed continuous registration by the meter, even while the water supply valve ahead of the meter was shut off.

Maybe Sugar Grove just needs an extra $94 and took it from us.

Lyle V. Johnson
Sugar Grove