Central Coast

Dear Jon: City says "We don't give water away"

Hollister resident finally gets resolution to her water issue with the city

During California's history-making dry spell, water wars with municipalities are not where you want to go. A recent situation came to my attention in Hollister when Noreen emailed me and asked, "Dear Jon, Why didn't the City alert me immediately about our water leak, instead of letting 5 weeks go by before alerting me?"

This seems like a case of a meter reader doing his job, but when the water consumption goes up dramatically both the homeowner and the city should have a mechanism in place to rectify any potential problem quickly, sparing the homeowner expense and frustration. The homeowner admits she should have taken this more seriously. But don't you think the city should be watching for residential or commercial water anomalies, given the drought?

What ensued in this case was at least a two-month leak and 5,000 gallons of water leaking in the homeowner's yard between the meter and house. It created the beginnings of a sink hole. When the homeowner finally contacted the City of Hollister, she was told to have it inspected twice and then get a plumber to fix it. By this time, the leak was two months old. The final water bill was $900 and the plumber's bill was $475.

Hollister's policy is to work with the homeowner fairly and not play favorites. The assistant City Manager says, "We don't give water away." The city eventually worked with the homeowner to reduce the water bill to $516, essentially paying for the plumbing bill. But this resolution just happened on Thursday after two city council members and I were notified by the homeowner. Why so long?

You'd think that once the homeowner goes to the city with her plumbing bill, the city could adjust the water bill. In this case, the homeowner says she went to the city  mid-February, having had the leak fixed in late January. But the city says the homeowner was procrastinating.

The homeowner and the city are satisfied with the resolution. But a better solution here, according to city leaders, is both parties working quickly to resolve all the issues. The homeowner will have to pay her part and the city will adjust the water bill accordingly. Both parties need to communicate early and often to mitigate frustrations and the bombshell of a $900 water bill.

If you have a question or a concern to share with me, email me at the link above or at DearJon@KIONRightNow.com. I'm also on Facebook at "JonKBrent KION" and Twitter at "DearJonKBrent."

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