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 K-town Utility Office Billing Practices Questioned

April 1, 2009 - The billing practices of the Knightstown utility office were the subject of one local woman’s complaints and questions at the Knightstown Town Council’s March 19 monthly meeting.

Knightstown resident Addrea Carter Brown told the council she believed there had been a mistake made on a recent water bill received by her brother, Adam Carter, who was not present. She said he had been billed for using 2,300 gallons of water in a single month, an amount she believed was too high.

Brown said the town worker who came and looked at her brother’s meter said it had not been read in quite some time. She also said she didn’t believe the water meter at her home had been read since last May, but that her bills had not indicated they were based on estimates rather than actual meter readings.

Another issue Brown raised was her belief that duplicate billing statements recently received by many utility customers after the originals got lost in the mail had been higher than normal. She said bills were $25 to $100 higher, and that her brother’s went up more than $100.

Council member Steve Nelson said the replacement bills had been exact duplicates of the originals that were lost in the mail. If the amounts were higher than normal, he said it could have been due to meter readings being delayed due to bad weather, a point that was confirmed later in the meeting by Works Manager Mel Matlock.

Matlock told the council that utility workers relied on estimates instead of actual meter readings in January due to the weather. He also said some bills may have been higher due to the colder temperatures and because of an increase in a fuel charge assessed by the town’s electric supplier.

Council member Clyde South said he didn’t think bills based on estimates should be $100 higher than those from actual meter readings. He told Brown if there’s a problem with her brother’s bill, the council will do its “absolute best to make it right.”

Brown said she thought it was “weird” that utility bills went up right around the same time the town borrowed $45,000 from the town’s electric utility to pay part of a legal judgment and attorney fees. South said the timing was just a coincidence.

Another complaint Brown made had to do with an electric bill she had received earlier that week for a bill she said she should have gotten, but didn’t, 10 months earlier. Saying she had never received the original bill, she took issue with being told she only had 10 days to take care of the bill before it would be turned over for collection.

In other business at the March 19 meeting, the council also approved a two-year lease of the property where the town’s water wells are located, at a cost of $1,000 per year. The previous five-year lease had expired, and the owner of the property, Martin Young, has, according to Matlock, rejected the town’s offers to buy the land.

Matlock advised the council that one bid had been received for the old town court building on East Main Street. While the $10,500 bid from Denny Clark and Glenn Cross met the requirement of being at least 90 percent of the average of the two independent appraisals the town got on the property, it was not accepted at last week’s meeting. Instead, the council agreed to wait and see if any other bids are received before the sixty-day bid period has expired.

The council also received from Matlock a list of proposed streets to be repaved this summer. Matlock asked council members to let him know if they think of any other streets that need to be included on the list.

Chief of Police Danny Baker told the council that the new radio system is up and running, but that one antenna still needs to be relocated. According to Council President Valerie Trump, the total cost was $45,768.81, which South noted was about $2,700 more than originally authorized.

Baker said $1,000 of the added cost had been to replace an antenna that was cracked. Nelson, however, said the person who installed the new system told him there had been nothing wrong with the antenna. To do the job right, Baker said he thought replacing the antenna was necessary and said he didn’t want to have to deal with the issue a year from now.

Because he had been off work a week, Baker told the council that overtime for the Knightstown Police Department would be up for the current pay period. Council Vice President Terry Guerin reminded Baker that a new scheduled approved by the council earlier this year had been intended to reduce overtime.

Baker reported that one of three reserve officer the council had recently approved declined to accept the position. He said the other two, however, were to begin their training March 21.

The council voted to increase the number of part-time dispatchers from five to seven. Trump said this was being done to provide more flexibility with job scheduling and, hopefully, to reduce overtime.

The town’s attorney, Gregg Morelock gave the council some sample drug-testing policies used by other municipalities to review, and Guerin said he had a few others he wanted Morelock to look at. South and Guerin will serve on a committee that will work with Morelock on this issue.

Morelock also gave the council a draft of a lengthy ordinance dealing with participation in a national flood insurance program. The council agreed to table this issue until May.

The council voted to let Trump’s daughter, Lauren, a college student in Florida, serve an unpaid internship with the town this summer. Trump said her daughter will help develop a website for the town and do some studies geared toward helping the town with economic development efforts.

The Knightstown Chamber of Commerce received the council’s permission to use the public square for several days in early June for the annual Jubilee Days celebration. Set up on the square’s east side will begin after 5 p.m. on June 1, and after 5 p.m. June 2 for the west side, with Jubilee Days running June 3-6. The council also gave permission for a group that uses non-street legal go-carts to participate in the Jubilee Days parade.

 

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