Cambridge residents to get small water rate cut after double billing

By  | December 4, 2014 | 1 Comment | Filed under: Cambridge Water Billing Issues

Waterloo Region Record

ByChris Herhalt

CAMBRIDGE — All Cambridge water customers have been double billed a small charge meant to raise money to repair aging water and waste-water infrastructure since the start of the year.

While they will be receiving a rate reduction in 2015, there remains no relief for a handful of residents who have been hit with exorbitant water bills over the last two years and were told to wait until the new year for answers and any hope of recourse. Some bills amounted to several thousand dollars.

The 2015 fee reduction, averaging $9.48 for homes, is on the way because a charge meant to raise money to repair water infrastructure was levied twice every two months this year.

“Essentially, the (Infrastructure Renewal Charge) has been collected twice on every bill issued since January 1, 2014,” read a report submitted to a Cambridge council committee in the summer.

The city opted, for simplicity’s sake, to keep the double charge on bills until the end of 2014, and then not charge it in 2015 to compensate.

So starting this January, each residential customer using an average of 200 cubic metres of water annually will be charged $9.48 less. Industrial customers using between 10,000 and 100,000 cubic metres of water annually will be charged between $50 and $200 less.

“We look at this as a minor oversight,” said George Elliott, Cambridge’s commissioner of public works and transportation.

The total reduction for customers in 2015 is between $370,000 and $400,000.

“Because we have overbilled that one portion, that amount of money has been set aside in reserve to draw from this year, in order to recover,” Elliott said.

Even after issuing reductions to customers because of the overbilling, the city will still be able to make a contribution to its water and waste water reserve.

He said that this issue “is completely separate” from the ongoing consultant’s probe into the issue of several residents receiving outrageously high water bills over the last two years.

Tonya Broomer received a two-month water bill for $1,300 in July. Despite being more than $1,200 more than her home’s average bill, she paid it, because the City of Cambridge told her that her home’s water meter was working properly.

“For $9.50, I’m glad everyone’s going to get something like that. It takes someone out for lunch,” Broomer said. “But for the people who’ve had to pay exorbitant amounts on their bill, what’s $9.50?”

Elliott said consultants are still completing a report into why some homeowners have received extremely high bills, and it will reach councillors sometime in January or February 2015.

Broomer said the high water bill infuriated her, and a detailed report into what went wrong will only partly ease her frustration.

“Is there any explanation that will make it better? Not really. Right from the start, (the city) was not sympathetic, they didn’t give us any time,” Broomer said, adding she received calls from the city urging her to make a full payment on her bill even after they put her on a six-month payment plan.

Broomer contacted politicians about the overbilling but was unable to find a solution.

“I have considered moving away from this city,” Broomer said.

cherhalt@therecord.com , Twitter: @HerhaltRecord

http://www.therecord.com/news-story/5179880-cambridge-residents-to-get-small-water-rate-cut-after-double-billing/

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One Response to Cambridge residents to get small water rate cut after double billing

  1. cbcodyz@gmail.com'
    Bill December 5, 2014 at 8:46 am

    My water bill was half of previous months…no complaining. But it does make one wonder why? It is more than the 9.48 reduction rate. My neighbour showed me her bill as she could not believe she only owed one dollar and change. We noticed that the meter reading numbers were changed on her bill and that her current month reading was lower than her past months. How can a meter go back in its reading? And if the meter can not go backwards, then it is the billing department that messed up with the entry of the reading or how it reads. None of the amounts were estimates. The water meter is on the outside of our houses and so there was never an issue with not being to enter the premises for a reading. There is more going on then we are being told…once again. And if the computer systems can be messed with for the water billing, does this mean that it was quite easy for the voting system to be messed with as well? It does make a person wonder.

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