Some consumers of municipal water in Muskoka haven’t had their water consumption meters read since December 2021 due to staffing shortages impacting the third party the District contracts to read the meters.
Had the meters been read in a timely fashion, costly plumbing leaks would’ve been detected much sooner and given the system owner an opportunity to fix the leak.
According to a report submitted to the municipality’s finance committee on July 20 by the District director of finance Laurie Bissonette, while the municipality services 3,932 radio-read-enabled meters that allow for information to be obtained by simply driving a route with a collecting device, an estimated 8,959 customers rely on a third party to have their meters read by walking a route. It is some of those customers who have been impacted by the staffing shortage. They’ve been billed according to historical estimates for water and sewer usage (based on water consumption) rather than actual usage, which has made the detection of leaks impossible.
A case in point, according to District staff they are aware of a water and sewer customer living in Gravenhurst who would be billed an incredible $19,870 as a result of an undetected water leak.
“The District recognizes that accidental high water usage bills can create a hardship to customers. Further, a customer’s inability to pay for all consumption as measured by the water meter could lead to penalties and collection charges. Arrangements to spread costs over a longer period can be made by contacting the billing department but the arrangement does not reduce amounts owing as a result of a water leak,” states Bissonette.
Staff brought forward a policy that would, in most cases, credit half of the cost of the accidental leak back to the customer, “where water
usage exceeds two (2) times (200%) the average of the similar billing period from the previous year with a maximum adjustment period of 120 calendar days from the last bill date.”
Customers would receive a credit of up to $1,500 once they prove the issue has been addressed.
According to the report (you’ll find the link below) There are several restrictions associated with the policy and no adjustments will be approved when:
• Usage above the customer’s average monthly consumption is due to activities including watering of sod, gardening, filling swimming pools or whirlpools, and washing vehicles as this represents water knowingly used by the customer;
• Water loss due to theft, vandalism or construction damage will not be covered under the Policy. Resolving these issues is the responsibility of the customer; and
• Claims for leaks in unoccupied and/or vacant premises (for 72 hours or more). For extended absences, customers should consider shutting off the water supply
(with the exception where water is used for heating purposes) and draining all the pipes and appliances.
Staff were also seeking authorization through the proposed policy to evaluate on a case-by-case basis any situations in which significant financial hardship would be imposed upon a customer due to an undetected leak.
District council approved the policy at its August 8 meeting.
You can find more information and the full report here (pdf).
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