While several Councilors did not shoot the messenger on Wednesday night at the Common Council meeting, Water Department employee Fran Sordillo did get an earful about the problems in the billing process.
Councilor William Cardello let Sordillo know in no uncertain terms that the billing department and meter reading processes were very inadequate. “A resident has been waiting for three months to find if his abatement has been approved,” Cardello said. “This man was presented a final bill of more than $6,200 when he went to sell his house even though he has paid every bill for the last 10 years. This is not right. People are leaving the City because they are being robbed.”
Sordillo said that the water meters on the outside of the homes may not be working accurately and the only way to get an actual read is from the water meter inside the house. “It is impossible to get into some homes,” Sordillo told the Councilors.
“I am not happy,” Councilor Catherine Hicks told Sordillo. Hicks then related how one resident had seen her water bill spike only in the summer months even though Hicks contends that there is no outside water use.
“People are being constantly under billed,” Rosa DiFlorio said. “Let’s get rid of all the old meters and get new ones.”
Sordillo said that about 700 meters have been replaced in the last few years, but it would cost more than $2.8M to replace the remaining 8,100 meters.
Peter Napolitano questioned why residents continuously receive estimated bills. “People are hurting, it is not unreasonable for citizens to be upset when you get a bill for water usage that is going back more than 10 years. We need to put a cap on how far to go back,” he added.
On questioning from Daniel Napolitano, it was learned that in 2008 there were 140 filings for abatements with 40 being denied. This year the total filings totaled 43 with eight have been denied.
Needs a budget
That was the message from the Councilors after they approved a transfer into the Charter Commission account of $5,000. “They need a budget, not a blank check, that is my message,” DiFlorio said. Several other councilors echoed her feeling that before any other monies are transferred that a complete budget be presented to the Council.