October 25, 2014

Elyria
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New meter puts Amherst resident’s water bill off charts

AMHERST — When Amherst resident Rob Warth’s water bill skyrocketed in August, he knew there was a problem.

Sure, he expected an increase — the city of Lorain had forced a large one on the Amherst residents who are its water customers beginning July 1 — but he didn’t expect to see it jump from $126.70 in July to $370.71 in August and go even higher in September to $447.73.

He was pretty positive that he didn’t use the 18,700 gallons of water from June 20 to July 19 that his bill said he used. Not when his normal use was about 5,610 gallons for a billing cycle.

Warth immediately zeroed in on some equipment installed on his home to measure his water use. He’d had new siding put on his house, and the Lorain Water Department told him he needed a new radio unit because his old one had been covered by the siding.

The new radio unit was installed July 3, and the problems with his bills started soon thereafter.

Warth had his house tested for leaks and contracted with Related Construction Inc., which found nothing out of sorts with his plumbing.

That prompted him to contact Lorain City Service Director Robert Fowler — he said he called Sept. 6 and Sept. 10 to request a meeting — but he contended that he never received a return phone call. On Sept. 6, a Water Department employee inspected the meter and said it was working properly.

Warth said he was more than frustrated with his growing bills and no answers, so he poured out his tale to Lorain County Commissioner Tom Williams when he ran into him at a soccer game. Williams, who has a background in engineering, said he thought it sounded like a problem with the way the radio unit was installed.

On Warth’s behalf, Williams contacted Fowler and Utilities Director Corey Timko, who agreed to look into it. On Sept. 14, Warth was notified that the wrong size of meter head was installed, which led to the higher readings.

His water bills have been adjusted, but he has not been reimbursed for the $105 he spent hiring the contractor to search for leaks. He’s planning on asking for that, too, he said.

But he said what bothers him the most — and what he fears might happen to other residents — is that the problem that happened to him might also happen to them.

Had he not enlisted Williams, he might still be fighting, he said.

“My whole point wasn’t so much that they ended up doing the right thing, but that they didn’t end up doing anything until Commissioner Williams got involved,” he said.

Fowler said Warth’s allegations are untrue, and Williams’ involvement had nothing to do with the department’s response.

Fowler said he forwarded Warth’s complaints to Timko when he received them.

The visit by a meter reader to Warth’s house on Sept. 6 was proof he acted, Fowler said.

“Tom Williams’ call to our office had nothing to do with our response,” he said.

Contact Chelsea Miller at 329-7123 or cmiller@chroniclet.com.