Sewer bill overcharge

A local trailer park owner said he was overcharged on his sewer bill due to a water leak that led to his usage being incorrectly calculated. The City Council denied waiving the fees but could consider the item again.

A local trailer park owner is hoping to have sewer fees waived that were billed due to a water leak.

At a recent meeting, the St. Joseph City Council saw an item that would waive $7,783 in sewer fees for Countryside Mobile Home Estates due to the fact that the bill was calculated based on water used and that water did not end up in the city’s sewer system.

No representative from Countryside was in attendance at that meeting and the council rejected the request, but the group could see the item again next month.

City Manager Bruce Woody said a bill of around $15,000 was sent and the owner of the park said he was comfortable paying half of that, estimating the rest was due to water loss.

“What we agreed to do was to accept his payment of half the bill, forestall his payment of the other half pending sending an ordinance to council for their determination,” Woody said.

Russel Hanson, owner of Countryside, could not be reached for comment, but an email thread from July between him and a customer service representative at City Hall shows that his water service was shut off and there is a disagreement about the amount actually owed.

“The water usage is actual... the water leaked onto the ground so it’s the sewer usage that is not actual,” Hanson wrote. “Last time I contacted you guys and did this exact same thing and you did the credit. So what’s different now?”

Woody confirmed to the council that Hanson has been credited at a different location in the past.

Hanson claims in the email that his average actual sewer usage is $1,700 per month, but Woody said it is difficult to tell what the average should be.

He said that in this situation, an average typically is found from past months and the overcharge is credited, but the Countryside situation is different.

“That was harder to apply that same kind of objective review in this case because this one service and one meter provides service to over 40 mobile homes, and with people moving in and moving out, his historic usage was all over the place,” Woody said.

Woody said the water company shut off the utility when the bill wasn’t paid, but it was turned back on by an unauthorized person. He said the water was again shut off and a concrete block weighing a ton was placed over the access to avoid it being turned on again, but the block was moved and the water was again switched on by an unauthorized person.

Though it denied the request, the council does want to give Hanson a chance to speak on the issue. The item is expected to be back on the agenda for first reading at the council’s Oct. 21 meeting.

Brendan Welch can be reached

at Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPWelch.