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The Ohioville Municipal Authority is continuing to investigate claims of vastly inflated water bills in its four-community coverage area.
Estimates of 70 to 100 people seeking answers from the authority board filled Ohioville’s small meeting room last week.
So far, authority Manager Clarence Dawson said today, officials have found no further evidence that bills were incorrectly inflated. But the authority is allowing customers who think their bills are incorrect to pay the minimum monthly fee of $34 without penalty unless their case is resolved in the authority’s favor.
The authority, which supplies water to 1,007 households in Ohioville, Industry, Midland and South Beaver Township, initially received 15 complaints earlier this month, Dawson said. He previously said that three were found to be caused by book or computer errors.
Since then, Dawson said, a couple of the customers who complained were found to have not paid their bills for some time, and received the higher balance due as a result.
“One person who complained the most hadn’t paid a bill since January,” Dawson said.
A couple other complaints also were previously found to be the customers’ liability, including a $6,000 residential bill caused by a broken line on the customer’s property.
Before last week’s regular authority board meeting, Dawson said officials planned to review billing records from over the last four years. Today, he said the company that handles the computerized billing has found no mistakes, and officials have reviewed some cases back to 2011.
“Some of the bills probably should have been higher in the past,” he said.
Ohioville resident and customer Carolyn Chambers, a retiree, said her water bill has been normal, but she attended last week’s meeting to support her nearby neighbors along Route 168 who got bills of $400, $600 and $900.
She said one neighbor told her the authority claimed she used her monthly allowance of 3,000 gallons within one week.
Chambers said she heard others at the meeting say they got bills of $1,000 to $1,200. She characterized their mood as “disturbed and anxious” about their bills.
She said Dawson “talked in circles,” telling affected customers that they can pay their normal $34 monthly bill without penalty until things are resolved.
But some customers complained they’ve already paid the suspect higher bills, and have also already paid penalties, Chambers said.
Chambers said people complained they were all told they had leaking toilets. She said about 80 percent of the audience raised hands when asked how many had been told that.
But she said the customers disputed the toilet theory. One woman presented a bill from a plumber who told her there was nothing wrong with her toilet.
She said Dawson also said that numbers have been entered manually into the computer system. Dawson said that is accurate.
Customers have asked that the board have its next regular meeting on Sept. 10 at a larger venue.