Residents demand answers to high water bills

Since reporting our story, the city has issued a press release regarding the Council's plan to deal with the replacement of Kirksville water meters.

View that statement here.


Several Kirksville residents received an unwelcomed surprise in the mail recentlyâ?¦ a very expensive water bill.
KTVO took a closer look into why so many families' bills skyrocketed, some in the $1,000 range.

Michael Hunsaker said it does not matter why the bills went up; the city just needs to correct the problem.
â??They're not going to be getting $800 out of me for a water bill,â?? Hunsaker said.

Hunsaker and his family live on the south end of Kirksville.
He said their water bill averages between $40 and $60 a monthâ?¦until one day it didnâ??t.

"The first couple of days were frustrating, because you just couldn't believe that this was happening,â?? Hunsaker said.

What was happening is Hunsaker received a bill in the mail for $819.81.

He said when his wife told him how much the bill was, he told her it had to be some kind of mistake.

â??Every home and every business that gets water has a water meter,â?? said Kirksville City Manager Mari Macomber. â??Some of those meters are located in a pit outside the home, and so we're able to access those and read the meter. Some businesses and some homes have their meters located where they're not accessible.â??

Macomber said several years ago the city added remote readers so that a reading could be taken from outside the home without interrupting the property owner for those properties where the meters that were not accessible could be read from the outside of the home. â??The remote hooks from a wire from your meter. There's a signal that the meter (in your homes) sends through this wire to the remote (outside),â?? Macomber said.

Last year, the City Council decided to move forward with a Performance Contract and replace all the water meters in town with new technology.

The new meters will allow the meter reader to drive by and use a handheld device to get the water usage information from your meter.

â??We knew and we explained to the council that there were going to be some accounts that there was going to be a difference between what the meter said inside their homes and what the remote said on the outside.â??

Macomber said they estimated that 2 percent of its 7,000 customers would have the difference.

â??After having about 25 percent of the meters replaced we found that we have about 6 percent of our customers who have a difference between their actual meter and their remote.â??

Macomber said there is a difference between estimated bills and catch-up bills.
â??A catch-up bill are the ones we said, 'We're changing your meter out, and we found out there's a difference between the reader and the remote.' That would have been a catch-up bill,â?? Macomber said. â??It's called a catch-up bill because we we're catching the actual bill up to what they actually used. An estimated bill is we don't know what your meter's saying, so we're going to estimate based on past usage.â??

She said the city knew that some residents remotes were not working, and those customers were notified.

â??We had sent them letters saying your remotes not working, and until we get the meters changed out, we can either estimate your bill, or you can read your meter and give us that number monthly," Macomber said. "Some of the customers have chosen to read their meters and have provided that, some have not been able to do so and so we have been estimating their bills.â??

Macomber said those customers who chose to go with the estimate will be billed based on the meter.

Hunsaker said his bills are estimates, but he was never told.
â??We didn't receive a door hanger, a phone call, an email or anything like that. This is almost all estimates for the last two years,â?? Hunsaker said.

Macomber said the City Council will be asked to consider a measure to allow staff to use the remote meter readings as opposed to the actual meter readings for those meters that are being changed out and to allow credit adjustments for those accounts whose meters were replaced and the actual meter read was used to calculate their bill from May 31.

Macomber said if the Council approves this the remaining 75 percent of customers who have not had their meters changed out will be billed by their remote readers, but anyone who was told months ago that their bills would be estimated unless the customer provided the actual meter read will be billed by the actual meter. She said the water is measured in cubic feet and one cubic foot equals 7.48 gallons.