440 Hawthorn Lane, Vero Beach
LAST WEEK WE WROTE ABOUT HOW THERE MAY HAVE BEEN AN ERRONEOUS invoice for Indian River County (IRC) water consumption. There was considerable interest in this article and we indicated we would follow up with you this week.
The article pertained to how, Charles Mayernik, Vero Beach resident, who lives eight months here and four months in New York, received a water bill with a line item of $ 1,379.18 (187,000 gallons) for his water consumption charge for the service period 5/14/2015 – 6/11/15. The total utility bill for the prior IRC service period was $ 83.82.
In our article we provided an image of the water bill.
As we indicated he would, the day after we published our article, on August 24, 2015 IRC Utilities Director Vincent Burke made this subject the first agenda item of his morning staff meeting.
Later in the afternoon Mr. Burke kindly invited me to meet him and his Water Department Supervisor to review the results of their investigation. We met the following morning and at that time, he detailed the information obtained while researching the issue. Some of the research looked at the historical bill readings, personnel site visits, phone call logs and customer service notes.
The fact is that the invoice was not erroneous, because the house consumed the water.
The IRC Utilities Department regularly monitors water consumption meter reading inconsistencies and when the meter reading at Mr. Mayernik’s house showed a consumption level of 187,000 gallons, the next day the Department sent a representative to the house to discuss the consumption but no one was at home.
The day of Mr. Burke’s staff meeting and the Utilities department sent another representative to the house.
Also, it turns out, as we wrote last week, the reason the water was shut off was not because of the non payment of the $ 1379.18 water consumption bill, but because of non payment of prior bills dating back to April, 2015.
The fact that, as Mr. Mayernik’s son advised, the meter was under water had no effect because the meter is sealed. The day after the Utilities Department was notified the meter was underwater they sent someone out again and the water was gone.
Yes, a representative of Kevin Lovely’s Plumbing Inc. inspected the house, but that was on August 8, 2015, about two months after the 187,000 gallon water consumption reading. The comments on the invoice are that: “Searched the house found no leak need to get in to see if a leak is in the house went in house went in house test everything nothing leaking.”
On August 24, the day of Mr. Burke’s staff meeting, Mr. Mayernick’s son emailed me to say “Miraculously…the water company called my brother in law and is offering a settlement. I have no idea what it is but why would I settle when it is there mistake?”
At my meeting Mr. Burke said they are trying to be accommodating by offering to adjust the bill, but water costs money and the utility department is trying to cover the costs of the water production and distribution so that this cost is not passed on to other rate payers..
Then on August 25 Mr. Mayernick’s son sent another email to say that they: “offered to reduce to $803.00. I find this unacceptable and an insult.”
Then again on August 25, after I emailed Mr. Mayernick’s son essentially all of the above information and asked if someone could have hooked up to your house and used your water; and that someone consumed it somehow, he wrote back that: “I will call my congressman and my attorney tomorrow…because they had access to my phone number…and there are too many inconsistencies.”
In my August 25 email I indicated that I was pleased, as he had asked me, to bring his concerns to the attention of the Utilities Department, because he felt he was getting nowhere, that the matter now has to be between him and them.
As of Friday, August 27, according to Mr. Burke: “a very fair and reasonable offer was made to the family members in order to get water service back on but they were unhappy with said offer.”
But then on Saturday, August 28, Mr. Mayernick’s son emailed me again that : “Thanks for all your help. I have contacted Channel 7 on your side in New York and they seem to be of interest. Lets watch the TV for updates; in New York late fees for over charging water charges locks on meters all are investigative news ..there are so many unanswered concerns; it seems I guess they will contact their affiliate station to get to the bottom of a travesty.”
NOTE: Mr. Burke approved this article.