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Archive for Thursday, September 20, 2012

City, country clubs still dispute billing

September 20, 2012

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A golfer chips onto a green Wednesday at Lawrence Country Club, as a club employee waters a green in the background. The club has started charging its members a special assessment to help pay its water bill.

A golfer chips onto a green Wednesday at Lawrence Country Club, as a club employee waters a green in the background. The club has started charging its members a special assessment to help pay its water bill.

This is one golf course debate that is dragging on well past the 18th green.

City of Lawrence officials have agreed to write off $65,000 worth of water bills that they contend Alvamar Country Club and Lawrence Country Club were not properly billed for during a multiyear stretch.

But neither club has agreed to a settlement with the city, which contends the two golf courses still owe a total of $260,000 for water that was used but not properly billed by the city.

“We’re still optimistic that we’ll be able to reach some type of agreement with the clubs,” Assistant City Manager Cynthia Wagner said. “The situation obviously is unfortunate, but we’re still very much in the mode of trying to work with them on this.”

The Journal-World in June reported that the city had discovered that Alvamar Country Club was underbilled by about $240,000 for water usage from September 2008 to October 2011. The city contends Lawrence Country Club was underbilled by about $85,000 from January 2009 to September 2011.

Wagner on Wednesday said the city has since had discussions with both clubs and has agreed to reduce Alvamar’s total to $200,000 and Lawrence Country Club’s total to $60,000.

Neither club, however, has accepted those amounts, Wagner said. Attempts to reach representatives with Alvamar Country Club and Lawrence Country Club were not successful Wednesday.

The city recently hired an outside auditor, Lawrence-based Mize Houser & Company, to review the city’s numbers. Wagner said the auditing firm concluded the city’s calculations were correct, but the golf courses still have unresolved questions about whether there were mechanical issues with the city’s water meters that have led to inaccurate totals from the city.

Wagner said the city is reviewing those issues currently.

At the moment, the city thinks the problems began when the city switched the golf course’s water meters from a manually read meter to a meter that is read remotely with equipment that monitors radio waves that emanate from the meter.

Wagner said the city currently believes a coding issue in the city’s billing system caused a digit to be dropped from the water totals measured by the meters.

“Instead of reading 130,000 gallons for example, it might show 13,000 gallons,” Wagner said. “We believe it was off by a factor of 10, at times.”

But the issue at Lawrence Country Club, in particular, becomes cloudy. Wagner said the time period the city was experiencing the billing issues coincides with a time that Lawrence Country Club added its own irrigation ponds in an effort to reduce city water usage. Country club members have contended that is why the course’s city water usage dropped dramatically.

There are signs that the water bill issue is creating budget concerns at Lawrence Country Club. The club recently sent members a letter notifying them of a special assessment that would be added to membership dues. The assessment, the letter said, would help pay for future water bills that are likely to be higher than budgeted.

Wagner said she expects the city will have its review of any mechanical issues with the meters completed in the next couple of weeks. She said the city then would approach the country clubs again to address the issue.

Wagner said the city — as it was in June — is confident that other water users were not underbilled by the city. She said the city conducted a review of its largest water users and those that use the remote-control-read meters and found no issues.

Wagner said the city’s policy is to try to collect on past water usage, even if the billing issue is the result of an error on the city’s part. City officials have said to not collect on the past water usage would be unfair to the other ratepayers in the city’s utility system.

“We just feel that it is important to properly bill for water that has been used,” Wagner said.

Comments

BABBOY 1 year, 6 months ago

So, they did not bill it right?

I think that is on Lawrence.......

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optimist 1 year, 6 months ago

Can't see how the city has a leg to stand on. By their own admission they don't actually know how much was under billed. There is little doubt under billing occurred but how can the city justify their guess. If I were the golf courses I wouldn't start talking with the city until they came back with a 50/50 split of their best guess.

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irvan moore 1 year, 6 months ago

how do you make a mistake like that and not catch it for a year

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MarcoPogo 1 year, 6 months ago

That's a lot of ball washing.

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patkindle 1 year, 6 months ago

I have no respect for the city billing services ....................... we paid water trash bills of 30 to 50 bucks a month for a year on an empty house because we wanted to leave the services intact. ..................................(our stupid choice) we thought we were doing the right thing We got no help from the city, they only wanted our money...................... they are as greedy as ku

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Bud Stagg 1 year, 6 months ago

How do they know they even under billed these two customers? Do they have a meter for the meter? Of was this a reporting error on the new meter and it's software. Is there a manual reading that they finally checked 3 years later? If the software was not reporting it correctly, how do they prove this? By the way, these are their two biggest customers, wouldn't you think they would monitor their best customer's a little more closely? I have a list of all my customers and track whether they are up or down. Being down by a factor of 10 from 240k to 24k is a huge drop to notice 3 years later.

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missmagoo 1 year, 6 months ago

All I'm reading is "city's fault" "city's fault" "city's fault."

Not the club's problem they were under billed and no way to prove how much water they actually used or how if/when the meter was incorrect or to what extent. I wouldn't pay the city a single dime!
There's no way it would hold up in court..

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ddhawkfan 1 year, 6 months ago

Soooo can I rack up this type of city bill and still have services?

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vermont 1 year, 6 months ago

Wagner said "the city’s policy is to try to collect on past water usage, even if the billing issue is the result of an error on the city’s part."

You may rethink your policy. Looks like you'll have to mark a loss. This is about as unethical is it gets.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 6 months ago

Seems like a review of water usage over the last several years should provide a pretty good estimate of what water usage was for the periods in question.

It ain't rocket science.

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Keith Richards 1 year, 6 months ago

Another fumble by the water department, big surprise. The city should collect however or else all of us small users will end up paying to irrigate private golf courses.

Sure LCC might have added irrigation ponds, but that probably helps explain why their bill is 1/3 of Alvamar's with only 5 months less billing.

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JackMcKee 1 year, 6 months ago

Good luck collecting. Idiots.

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somebodynew 1 year, 6 months ago

"Wagner said the city’s policy is to try to collect on past water usage, even if the billing issue is the result of an error on the city’s part. "

If your equipment 'might' not have been working properly (dropping a digit) just HOW do you know how much they used. It MIGHT HAVE BEEN a factor of 10, or maybe 20, or maybe 4 ??? If I am the user, I am taking you to court and you have to PROVE that I actually used that much.

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oneeye_wilbur 1 year, 6 months ago

Clean house at the water dept and city hall.

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