Water billing procedures discussed at Scottville commission meeting.

March 6, 2018

Most of the 600 meters in Scottville’s water district, which includes Amber Township west to Stiles Road, are attached to the exterior of the building, but 200 of them are buried.

Water billing procedures discussed at Scottville commission meeting.


By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

SCOTTVILLE — Two Scottville property owners addressed City Commission about concerns of their water bills. The concerns were not about rates but about procedures. Marilyn Carey, who along with her daughter, Jordan Munford, owns two rental homes in Scottville, said that she had noticed the December water bill (which was for November service) seemed much higher than usual for the triplex rental home her company owns on West State Street.

“I went to city hall and explained that I thought the bill was rather high,” Cary told the Commission during its regular meeting Monday. “It was suggested that we check for leaks, which we did.” Cary said that they discovered a toilet that had been running and then fixed it. In January, the water bill was about the same price. She again brought her concern to city hall and was told that there may be more leaks. This time she hired a plumber to investigate. The plumber didn’t discover any leaks. The February bill was also for about the same price.

“At this point I thought maybe there was something wrong with the meter, that’s when it was revealed to me that the meters hadn’t been read since November, which is when we had our leak. We were told that the city had been estimating the water bills and that it has to either read all the meters or none of the meters.”

Cary said she recently got in touch with City Manager Amy Williams, who had not been part of the previous exchanges. She said that Williams sent over an employee of the Department of Public Works who manually read the meter. After determining that the water usage estimate had been over-estimated, the city issued a refund check for the difference.

Resident Kevin Marcoux, who lives on North Reinberg Avenue, said he too was concerned about the estimates, which seemed higher than their usual bill. But, he was also concerned that his water bill arrived late in the mail, which meant that he had to pay a late fee.

Williams explained to the commission that about 200 of the city’s 600 water meters are pit meters, buried underground. The rest of the meters are attached to the exterior of the building. The DPW reads the water meters using an electronic device and when the pit meters are buried under snow, the device can’t read them, which means that the bills have to be estimated for the entire city during that time.

Williams said the best solution is to add remote radio readers to the pit meters, which would allow a city employee to read the meter from a vehicle without coming in contact with it. The estimated cost to add the radio transmitters to the 200 meters is about $40,000. Adding the transmitters to all the city’s meters, which include service on US 10-31 west to Stiles Road, would be $145,000.

She said the city could also go to a quarterly read, like the City of Ludington, but that would mean water customers would get billed quarterly, tripling the amount due.

She said the issue with the late water bill was a problem with the US Postal Service. “I don’t mean to throw the post office under the bus here but the water bills are always sent out on the 17th of the month. In the case of the January bills, they were mailed out on time. The Scottville post office sent them to Grand Rapids and then they were returned to the Scottville post office. They were then sent back out to Grand Rapids and then mailed to our residents, which caused some of the bills to arrive late. We even had one bill that went out of state.”

Williams said the bills are sent out first class, which costs the city $190 each mailing. “I know my staff is doing what they always have done. Debbie Howe (deputy clerk) reviews each of the 600 bills and then walks them to the post office.”

Williams said the city is getting a new software system that will help make water and sewer billing more efficient. She said the new system will allow the city to send email invoices to customers. The city also offers an auto debit service where water/sewer bills can be paid automatically.

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