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The Ohioville Municipal Authority plans to review billing records from over the last four years after recent complaints revealed three inflated monthly invoices caused by book or computer errors.
The authority, which supplies water to 1,007 households in Ohioville, Industry, Midland and South Beaver Township, got 15 complaints since bills landed in mailboxes a week ago, authority Manager Clarence Dawson told BeaverCountian.com.
A couple were found to be the customers’ liability, including a $6,000 residential bill caused by a broken line on the customer’s property. Authority customers typically pay a $34 monthly charge that allows for 3,000 gallons of water usage. A premium charge is applied after that figure. Actual meter readings are done quarterly.
The rest of the complaint cases are still being resolved, Dawson said. “I think we have a handle on it,” he said of the outstanding cases.
He said the suspected issues will be addressed at the authority’s board meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Ohioville Borough Building at 6268 Tuscarawas Rd.
Dawson said every complaint will be addressed and resolved. “If we have to do refunds, we will do refunds,” he said. He cautioned that the review of all other customers’ records will take some time.
“It’s not going to be a one-night or one-day reviewing,” he said.
Mike Secchiutti, who has been on the authority’s board about 19 years, said the authority always receives regular complaints from customers who get unexpected bills, and that generally leaking toilets are to blame.
Dropping some dye or food coloring into your toilet tank and waiting 20 minutes to see if the color appears in the bowl might reveal a problem before the cost accumulates.
When it receives a complaint, Secchiutti said the authority sends its technician to compare the inside and outside meters to see if there’s a discrepancy. If none is found, the authority offers its technician’s free assistance in locating where a possible leak might be. Most often it’s going to be the toilets, he said.
If a high bill has already resulted, Secchiutti said it’s the customer’s responsibility. “It’s not fair” that the authority – and therefore all other customers – be forced to pick up the bill, he added.
Finally, if a customer isn’t satisfied with the meter readings, or the technician’s findings, he or she can pay a $50 fee to have their meter sent to an outside company for evaluation. If it’s found to be broken, the fee will be refunded.
In Secchiutti’s experience, he couldn’t recall a meter found to be malfunctioning. “I’m not sure it’s ever happened,” he said. “If it has, it’s very, very infrequent.”
Both men spoke about the negative social media attention the issue has caused in the last several days on so-called Facebook local news sites, technically called discussion groups. Dawson said he received only one phone call personally about the issue, but people posted strings of comments online.
Before an issue is blown out of proportion, they encouraged customers to seek to resolve the issue with the authority first before misinformation is spread and accurate information can be distributed.
If the office phone isn’t answered immediately, “we will get back to everybody,” Dawson said.
BeaverCountian.com reached out to two individuals who had posted on social media about alleged issues with their bills, but did not receive a response as of the time of this report.