Committee debates issue of high water bill breaks

EAST LIVERPOOL — Still getting its feet wet as a sounding board after dissolution of the Board of Public Utilities, city council’s Utilities and Franchise Committee debated Monday the issue of whether or not to give customers a break when their bills are high.

Councilman Ray Perorazio, who is not a member of the committee, nonetheless broached the issue, having brought up at another recent meeting a property owner who experienced a $2,400 bill due to a waterline break.

On Monday, he again said the committee needs to come up with a formula or other method by which such a bill can be forgiven, saying, “To make money on somebody’s bad fortune isn’t right.”

Mayor Ryan Stovall objected from the audience, saying his suggestion is much the same as his concern with court cases involving property owners in which the cases are dismissed because the problem is remedied to the court’s satisfaction, yet the city’s cost to inspect the home and other aspects of the case are left unpaid.

“You have to cover your costs,” Stovall insisted.

Service-safety Director Brian Allen pointed out the bill to which Perorazio referred was also not the fault of the city but of someone breaking a line while digging, noting that $800 was deducted from the bill.

Committee Chairman Tom Cunningham pointed out there has already been discussion in recent weeks about the water and sewer departments losing money and that “cutting fees for customers only hurts us.”

Perorazio said the BPU “was always too hard-lined,” saying, “It was always about business (with the BPU), and it’s not always about business. It’s not like we’re making a product we cherish.”

Cunningham disagreed, noting that in many communities around the country, “people wish they had fresh, clean drinking water.”

After considerable discussion, the committee moved on without making any recommendations on the issue for council’s consideration.

Utilities Director Tim Clark advised the committee that he will be providing Law Director Charles Payne with updated information on the regulations that must be included in the city ordinance according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

He said that, while the city is in compliance with the regulations, they are not reflected in existing ordinance.