City council 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 was reduced by more than $4,300 under a recommendation approved unanimously Monday by the city council.
City public works director Tim Kingman informed the council that a plumbing failure at the ice arena went undetected during that three-month period with the additional water going into the sewer.
“Now this is a one-time thing – we don’t want it to happen in the future – so let’s make sure we get flow monitoring on this,” he said. “But let’s see what we can do for the ice association, and what we proposed was not to charge them for the sewer costs.
“I think we’re obligated by (Public Service Commission) rules to charge them for the water that’s involved. However, we can use our judgment at the utility to give a credit or adjust a bill like this when logic prevails.”
Kingman said residential customers pay extra sewer and water charges “on a routine basis” when a leak occurs, but he noted that is a much smaller scale than what the ice arena experienced.
Based on the same billing period a year earlier, Kingman estimated the leak at the ice arena resulted in an additional 493,700 gallons of water being used of the 591,000 total gallons, compared to 97,300 used for the entire first quarter of 2015.
The figures he presented the council related to 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 additional sewer usage, Kingman estimated the leak resulted in additional charges of $4,319.88 of the $4,568.65 total billed for sewer costs.
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 charges, thereby reducing the total charges to $2,842.22.
“This compromise is one that I think should be the right thing to do,” he said.
The motion approved by the council will reduce the total first-quarter charges with a sewer credit of $4,319.88, provided the ice arena, at its own expense, installs a monitoring device to detect future water leaks.