High bills bring wave of questions

In March, I and many villagers had water meters replaced by village contractors. My new meter indicated no water leakage on my property.

Why the need for a new meter? The old meter had been installed about 20 years ago and was now deemed to be at the end of its 20 year life cycle.

Certain components within the meter were chronic to failure especially in years 19, and 20. (One chronic failure component is a plastic worm gear).

As such, the meters “internal” readout was and is unreliable by definition.

When the old meter was installed 20 years ago, a “remote” readout was also introduced to allow department of public works meter readers access without entering every home.

Due to erratic flow rate measurements, the two readouts most times, did NOT correlate. But the remote meter readings were used for billing purposes.

Payments were made semi annually “in full” by villagers.

Ergo, in March, the old meters were essentially condemned. The village took pictures of the old meters “internal” readout and then discarded the old meter.

Then, a subtraction was done, from internal readout versus external readout and the village DPW sent out billings which would claw back or back bill alleged water usage. As stated in the OBSERVER (June 19), and as a result, many villagers received abnormally high water and sewer bills in the thousands of dollars for water quantities typically of 140,000 gallons. (Mine was for 114,000 gallons, for two people)

The village had an “equipment problem” and is now scrambling to recoup source water costs from villagers to repay Erie County Water Authority.

As a concerned user, I sent emails to Mayor Nick Piccolo, and Trustee Warren Kelly and subsequently we had two meetings to discuss billing tactics.

Mayor Piccolo informed that the village is losing about 3 million gallons annually, but the integrity of the water lines in the village is 100 percent (no leaks).

I opined that there is about 15 miles of pipeline from the Blanding Road pump station to the 1 million gallon storage tank on Hanover Road and back to the village where it enters Christy Street which needs checking. The water line also passes under the Thruway and there is at least one case where the Thruway maintenance people ruptured the line. Other possible water loss could relate to unlawful unmetered usage, leaky incoming pipe lines to the grid and fire department usage.

I appealed my case in that the village may be back billing me over a 20-year period unfairly and using current higher rates. I was advised that most probably, the usage was at the old meters end of life, years 19, and 20. If this is true, than my unbilled monthly usage would calculate to about an extra 4,800 gallons a month. This just does not compute, in that my average usage is about 125 gallons a day.

I have asked the mayor to have the village board review the villagers water and sewer billings and to revise the billings downward, for a community comprised of mainly senior citizens who can ill afford these bills. I suggested that those people that have already paid these abnormally high bills should be allowed a credit.

Mr. Mayor, there is no need to seek legal counsel, on this matter before addressing it with the village board. Nobody cares how the city of Dunkirk handled their similar problem. During my terms of office, I kept track of trustee attendance. Certain trustees attended meetings less than 50 percent of the time. Using your logic, perhaps we should seek to claw back salary payments from the “no shows” who know who they are. It probably continues today.

When board members are sworn into office, they vow to work to the best of their ability. The oath assumes that these individuals have integrity.

This is a problem that can be resolved by simple board action and provide needed relief to villagers. I urge board members to over see and fix these billings which border line on being illegal.

Vince Tampio, former village mayor, is a Silver Creek resident.