Residents in the Springfield water service delivery area came to the city council to request the city look into concerns about the amount of usage reported on their bills.
Steve Thompson said residents in Cobbleton subdivision on Ebenezer Road have been having issues with their water bills.
“Particularly the amount of consumption that it says that we have,” he said. “We’ve had this since the first bill back in October of ’06.”
Thompson said they have been working with Assistant City Clerk Amber Nettles.
“They installed backflow valves in some of the houses, thinking it was the second floor water heaters causing some of the excess usage,” he said. “Our bills dropped for approximately four months, and beginning in April they started climbing and the last one was 38,500 gallons of water.”
Thompson said it is a new subdivision, and all of the subdivision’s residents are having the same issues.
Tamara Thompson told the council her bill was more than $300.
“To us, there’s not a question whether there’s an error,” she said. “I know myself and other families have argued with the guy who came to read my meter. He sat on my steps for about a half an hour and told me I was using that. We’re not using that much water.
“I don’t know what to do other than to come in and say, help, something is wrong.”
Tamara Thompson said she can’t pay her water bill — $260 — this month.
“We were given pieces of paper today on how to reduce our usage,” she said. “We’re not stupid. We know what to do to reduce our usage. I’m doing laundry once a week. I’ve been wearing my jeans four days in a row. We’re not watering our lawns anymore. I’m not running water when I brush my teeth. Why am I doing that in my house to come and argue about my usage? That’s ridiculous.”
Thompson said that even with her conservation efforts she has not seen her water usage decrease.
Councilman Kenny Usher said because of the man hours and cost involved, if a resident requests to have a meter checked, and the meter is not faulty, the resident is required to pay the cost. But if the meter is faulty, the resident is not required to pay the cost for checking and replacing the meter.
“As a matter of fact, that’s not my job,” Tamara Thompson said. “It’s not my job to talk you into checking meters to see if something is wrong. It’s not my responsibility to pay that bill if there is something wrong with my water bill.
“There’s no way I’m going to let this happen to my family. Our husbands work too hard, and I’m not going to give up being a stay at home mom to pay a $250 water bill. This may be a meter to you, and this may be engineering, but it’s my family and it’s the way we have to live. I’m not going to have people tell me I have to pay to have my meter checked, it’s not my meter.”
Toya Pryor, a Cobblestone resident, said she received a back flow adjustment previously, but the problem has continued.
“My bill was $310 and it’s only me, my husband is away,” Pryor said.
Pryor said the problems began when she and her husband moved into the house in August. She said when she received her first bill, she thought it might be normal, but as bills continued to increase, even after her husband was no longer there, she began to discuss the problem with those at city hall.
“Then they made the adjustments. Now it’s back to $310,” Pryor said.
Pryor said that her water bill last month was $114, and she was out of town for two weeks.
Mike Lakous, another Cobbleton resident, said he and his wife had closed on their house May 15. Lakous said he turned all the water off in his house to verify that the meter was not running when the water was turned off.
He said the meter spins one way when the water is on, and then backs up.
“We were told we consumed 89,000 gallons of water in 30 days,” Lakous said. “A $614 water bill on top of our mortgage and utilities. I don’t know too many working families in Effingham County who can afford a bill like that.”
Lakous said the residents at Cobbleton are doing what they can as residents to fix the problem, but they need the council’s help.
Patty Lakous said they had just moved from Rincon where their highest water bill was $65.
“Yes, we are watering a little bit more, but $614 and 89,000 gallons of water just doesn’t seem feasible,” she said. “I could have probably watered the front nine at Lost Plantation with 89,000, at least the greens.”
Lakous said she did not have options about the problem because if the water bill is not paid the water is turned off. She said the rate structure is penalizing the residents of the subdivision for living outside of the city limits.
“I look at this structure for residential outside the city and right off the bat in the first units we’re 33 percent penalty for living outside the city,” she said.
Leshanda Hunter told the council when she noticed a problem with the usage amount she was told it was because of irrigation.
“We don’t even have an irrigation system,” she said.
Public Works Director Lowell Morgan said the meters have been looked at frequently, and some of the meters are being monitored by the city daily.
Tamara Thompson said the meters are not the cause of the problem.
Residents said the bills are a problem through the entire subdivision.
“That lets you know that something is wrong,” Pryor said. “It’s not you’re fault, it’s not my fault, but it is a problem. We need to address the problem. Not just treat the underlying symptoms, but figure out what the problem is because it’s not the meters.”
Pryor said she replacing the meter did not fix the problem, and she had her irrigation system checked for leaks.
James Dasher, a real estate agent representing Cobbleton residents, said he would like to set up a meeting with officials to work to alleviate the problem.
“There is a problem, and we’re asking you to help us,” he said.