The parameters governing water bill adjustment requests in the City of Daleville have been changed.
At a Daleville Water Board meeting March 16 the board unanimously adopted a resolution outlining an updated bill adjustment policy which more clearly defines bill adjustment approval parameters.
The matter has been a board agenda item since the Jan. 19 water board meeting when Daleville Water Board Attorney Henry Steagall suggested a review of the existing policy.
“Over time, for many years, the water board has made (water bill) adjustments after requests from customers who need a little help,” Steagall said at that meeting. “I think it’s gotten out of hand a little bit.
“Really what you are supposed to be doing on adjustments is if there has been some sort of unexpected major event, like a hurricane or tornado or flood, that’s when you consider an adjustment,” Steagall explained. “If somebody’s toilet is leaking and they don’t fix it and they have a $60 water bill instead of a $40 water bill, that is not cause, in my opinion, for an adjustment. It’s negligence or inattention on their part and it’s costing the water board money.
“You have an obligation to your bond holders,” Steagall added. “You have pledged to them that you will pay off those bonds and there is just a lot of legal reasons why you shouldn’t just be adjusting these small claims when it is nothing but inattention involved.”
At the January meeting Steagall presented a proposed resolution for the board to review and the board was asked to present any suggested changes to the proposed resolution to Daleville City Clerk Angelia Filmore. “You want to help people but a lot of water systems are not as lenient as you are,” Steagall said. “If there is an adjustment to be made, it should be something major.”
The board had in January and February decided to table a vote pending an opportunity for each member to read the proposed resolution.
Under the new policy, adjustments to customer billing accounts will be considered only with a detailed, written, sworn application by the customer or other responsible party detailing the reason for the adjustment and attaching supplemental evidence and documentary support.
“Adjustments to customer billing accounts will be made only for unexpected extraordinary occurrences such as storms, floods, lightning, insurrection, riots or intentional mischief of others who are not residents of the household,” according to the policy. “Adjustments, if any, will be made in the absolute discretion of the board and, if granted, will ordinarily be based upon the average daily usage during the prior 90-day usage period. No adjustment will be considered that is less than three times the average daily usage of the customer over the previous 90-day period.”
According to the policy, adjustments will not be considered “for acts of inattention or negligence on the part of the customer or other residents of the premises or business or third parties employed by customer or other agents acting on behalf of customer negligence.” Examples cited include running toilets, rusty or broken water lines on the customer side of the meter or water left running while absent from the premises.
“Adjustments will always be made when the extraordinary charges are the result of the negligence of board employees or other agents,” according to the policy. “No downward adjustment to a customer's billing shall result in the board financially compensating or reimbursing the customer but rather, shall be allowed only as a credit toward future billing.
“The board in the past has made frequent equitable downward adjustments to customers' billing accounts due to discrepancies in their normal expected water usage and the board has begun to experience multiple claims from customers for downward adjustments in their billing for water usage when the discrepancies were either
reasonably expected to occur or due to the negligence of the customer or other third parties,” the new policy states. “The frequent adjustment to lower customer accounts is having an adverse
impact on the board's finances and violates the board's obligations to its bond holders.”
The next meeting of the Daleville Water Board is at 5 p.m. April 20 in the Daleville City Hall council chambers. The meetings are open to the public.