By KEVIN NEVERS
If your last bill from the Chesterton Utility seemed a little light, it
At least 50 and possibly as many as 200 of the Utility’s
customers received a sewer bill--mailed July 22--in which they were
not actually billed for consumption. Those customers
were billed the fixed $23.46 base rate, but they were not billed the
variable treatment rate of $5.78 per 1,0000 gallons of water consumed.
And that’s because--for reasons still
unknown but possibly related to a new computer system--Indiana-American Water
Company (IAWC) submitted to the Chesterton Utility so-called
“no-reads” on those 50 to 200 customers’ water consumption,
Utility Superintendent Terry Atherton told the Chesterton Tribune on
“We are trying very hard to identify as best we can who didn’t get billed
for consumption,” Atherton said. “But it’s extremely manpower-intensive. We
have to review all 5,000 accounts by hand.”
There’s more: that no-read problem may be getting worse. Atherton said that
for the next sewer bill--to be
mailed Sept. 19--the Utility has received fully 291 consumption no-reads from IAWC.
Eventually, every Utility customer underbilled in the last period will
get a reconciliation statement. But it’s likely to be a salty one, inasmuch
at it will bill the customer for both previous and
current consumption. And folks whose July 22 bill was light--and who are on a
strict monthly household budget--may want to think right now about making a
best-guess payment on it, which will be credited to their account.
Atherton said that the Utility is doing everything it can--going forward--to
manually estimate, based on previous consumption, the current consumption
for the 291 no-reads received from IAWC in this billing period. As of last
night, eight of the 291 no-read customers’ current
consumption had been so estimated. But the process is labor intensive and
time consuming, since those previous consumption histories have to be
retrieved by hand. And that’s because the Utility’s new computer
system was unable to integrate into its software customers’ historical
As Utility Service Board President Larry Brandt said, “It’s a perfect storm.
The water company has a new computer system. We have a new computer system.
It’ll get sorted out eventually.”
Brandt noted, however, that the no-reads in the last biling period cost the
Utility--for the moment--between $5,000 and $10,000 in revenues.
IAWC “is aware of the problem,” Atherton said. “They told us they’re going
to work on a solution. But it’s going to take time, a fair amount of time. A
fair amount of time meaning months.”
Atherton did add that if IAWC is unable to resolve its difficulties soon,
the Town of Chesterton may be forced to file a complaint with the Indiana
Utility Regulatory Commission.
As of deadline today, IAWC had not returned a call to the Tribune.
Town Council Member Sharon Darnell, D-4th, urged Utility customers to “take
heed” and examine their previous bill--and
their next one--closely.
“We’re trying to fix a problem someone else caused,” Darnell said. “Please
be patient when you call up.”
A couple of things to know about your bimonthly sanitary sewer bill:
* The Utility calculates customers’ wastewater
treatment consumption based on their water consumption. The assumption is
that all water flowed from taps and showerheads, flushed in toilets, and
used by washing machines ends up at the treatment plant.
* Folks are actually billed for four separate services on their bimonthly
bills: for sewage treatment; for stormwater management operations; for
refuse and recycling; and for brush and leaf collection.