Inyo County water-system billing suffers growing pains

By Deb Murphy

Inyo County took back management of the water systems for Independence, Laws and Lone Pine in January. The first official billing generated some serious backlash.

Calls started coming in asking why some of those invoices were so high, far above the $60.66 for the first two months of the year based on base rates for residential users under the previous contractor Wilder-Barton.

According to Public Works’ Chris Cash, the department read the 850 meters around Christmas to get a baseline, the current bills reflected water usage, plus any recurring balance, for the first two months of 2019. But, here’s the good news, there’s a lot of work to untangle Wilder-Barton records and the final decision on what to do going forward will be made by the Board of Supervisors once that untangling is finalized, Cash said.

Once approved, the new proposed rate system will bill based on a flat rate for meter size while the Wilder-Barton billing was based on usage, assuming the meters were read which is contested by some users. Wilder-Barton was allowed to estimate usage, Cash said, but there is an obligation to go back “and see if the estimates were accurate.”

When the County started the water system discussion, customers complained of not getting bills, much less having their meters read.

Cash’s message: “we don’t want any angst.”

“People are saying they were billed (In the past) but the meters weren’t read. I don’t have an answer for that. We bear some responsibility in that,” he said.

Cash went on. “We haven’t made a determination yet. We should have this untangled by the end of March.” At that point, any issues would go before the Board for direction to staff.

 

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