City committee favors charging for additional water, but not added sewer cost
BY KEVIN BONESKE
A water leak blamed for thousands of dollars in additional sewer and water charges in the Rhinelander Ice Arena’s first-quarter bill for this year would be reduced by more than $4,300 under a recommendation backed Monday by the city’s Water/Wastewater Committee.
City public works director Tim Kingman informed the committee that a leaky value linked to the ice arena’s cooling system went undetected during that three-month period with the additional water going into the sewer.
Based on the same billing period a year earlier, Kingman estimated the leak resulted in an additional 493,700 gallons of water being used of the 591,000 total gallons, compared to 97,300 gallons used for the entire first quarter of 2015.
The figures he presented the committee showing the ice arena’s customer history listed the cost for water usage at $1,429.60 for the first three months of this year, compared to $176.79 a year earlier.
When adding the additional sewer usage, Kingman estimated the leak resulted in additional charges of $4,319.88 of the $4,568.65 total billed for sewer.
Though the city could charge the ice arena the entire $7,162.10 in the first quarter bill, Kingman favored charging for only the additional water used, but not the additional sewer costs, thereby reducing the total charges to $2,842.22.
Kingman said the city wasn’t obligated to reduce the bill, but he favored doing so for the Rhinelander Ice Association, noting it is a non-profit organization.
“We do this (reduction of a sewer and water bill) for other customers,” he said. “We don’t do it frequently.”
Kingman said the water leak the ice arena experienced was about 10 times the cost of a residential leak that would add $50-$100 more to a bill.
Committee member Mark Pelletier said not charging the full amount for the sewer usage “does hurt the (sewer treatment) plant a little bit, but at the same time accidents happen.”
“If this was an industrial (user), would we consider this same cost reduction?” Pelletier asked. “I think this is something maybe we should look at for making a plan for the future, because it’s going to happen again.”
Pelletier said reducing the bill for a water leak can’t be compared to when city residents aren’t charged extra in the winter for running water continuously to prevent pipes from freezing, because that would be less expensive than having to deal with frozen pipes.
Ice arena manager Brett Aylesworth, who was on hand for the committee meeting, said the bad valve was replaced “almost immediately” after being discovered.
“It’s a shame I didn’t discover it the middle of February,” said Aylesworth, who noted he paid $1,881.55 toward the first-quarter charges, the same as the total charges for the last quarter of 2015.
The motion the committee forwarded for final approval by the full city council June 13 calls for reducing the total first-quarter charges to $2,842.22, with a sewer credit of $4,319.88, provided the ice arena, at its own expense, would install a monitoring device to detect future water leaks.