CRESTVIEW — Under city attorney Jerry Miller’s caution, the city council, in what could be a precedent-setting move, has unanimously agreed to adjust a resident's water bill.
Donald Shaud — after a receiving an $815.57 bill for water service at a residence he had yet to occupy — asked the council at its Oct. 14 meeting to provide relief.
Shaud had met with the Public Works, Utility Billing and Administrative Services departments, as well as city clerk Betsy Roy's office.
Shaud and his wife, Debra, had not yet moved into the Pearl Street residence when they had the water turned on in July while renovating. The house had been vacant for several months.
By digging back from the water meter, a plumber the Shauds hired had traced the leak to a galvanized pipe behind the house. Shaud showed the section of pipe to the council.
"It wasn't my fault," Shaud said of excess water use for which he was billed. "I didn't fill a swimming pool. I didn't turn on a faucet. I had a legitimate leak."
The water and sewage department granted an $89.85 credit for sewage service, but told Shaud the city ordinance did not allow the department to refund excessive water billing.
Meter would have revealed leak
Shaud cited a statement on the back of his receipt for city water service that said if no one is at home when a city worker turns on the water, but the water meter shows a water flow, the technician would unlock the meter, but turn the water off.
City Councilman Mickey Rytman said a water technician should have known there was a leak when the meter was turned on and started spinning.
"It seems to me the city personnel turned it on and drove off," Rytman said.
Miller advised the council that while under ordinance it had no obligation to grant Shaud relief, the city "as a courtesy" could assist the resident.
Rytman, seconded by Councilman Shannon Hayes, moved to adjust Shaud's bill to reflect a three-month average water usage.
Miller cautioned the council not to provide a reason for granting the relief to avoid setting a precedent, but to treat it as a routine financial transaction permissible under the council's fiscal powers.
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Brian Hughes at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.