Members of the Edmond City Council heard from several residents Monday evening seeking answers and solutions regarding their recent water bill spikes.
The city will continue to answer any concerns residents have about individual bills, said Larry Stevens, city manager.
“Yes, we do make mistakes,” Stevens said. “In reality we don’t make many, but when we find them we correct them and adjust the bills accordingly.”
He pointed out that 56% of single-family residential customers used less than 10,000 gallons of water on the August billing cycle. Two-thirds of overall customers had a higher bill, Stevens said.
Outdoor water usage is the primary reason residents had water bill spikes, he said. Billing adjustments are made for leaks when documentation shows a plumber had addressed the problem.
May and June cumulatively resulted in nearly 27 inches of rainfall for residents. During these conditions, residents tend to have less water usage.
The average daily water production during May and June was about 8-10 million gallons per day. Edmond experienced dry weather in July. Dry conditions brought no relief for vegetation, so the city’s water production quickly increased to 20 million gallons per day — which is a critical benchmark for peak capacity capabilities.
Edmond had barely 1/10 an inch of rainfall during the 35 day period from July 4 to Aug. 7, Stevens said.
“So what that means is we had two very low usage months that were followed by a very high usage month,” Stevens explained, “which made obviously the higher billing cycle even more pronounced.”
The use of smart meters will be on the city council’s agenda sometime during the next month, Stevens said. The modern technology allows individual customers to monitor their utility usage on an hourly or daily basis, he noted.
Mayor Dan O’Neil was one of the first people to complain about his water bill to the city manager. O’Neil said he received an erroneous water bill in May.
“It was a mistake, apparently,” he said.
RESIDENTS DISSATISFIED WITH EXPLANATION
Amy McDaniel said her documented water consumption spiked from 1,500 gallons to 26,000 gallons. She said an employee of the Edmond Water Department said that she had a mistake, because her meter never moved in 12 days.
“I have a $180 water bill for three weeks,” she said, “and it said I went up to 26,000 gallons when I wasn’t even home.”
Justin Owens owns eight Sonic businesses with one of them in Edmond. He said the average water bill for other Sonic locations are about $700 a month. Last month his June water bill in Edmond was $2,000, $2,900 in July, and $2,000 in August, he said. His other Sonic locations average from $700 to $1,000, he said.
Ashley Pruett said the water bill for her husband’s small business in Edmond went up to $410 near Second Street and Coltrane at Coltrane Place. Several businesses are located there, she added.
“No showering there or anything,” Pruett said.
She complained for not being able to view her payment history online with the City of Edmond; however, O’Neil said the city keeps all records.
“My sister in-law lives in Hampton Hollow in Edmond. Last Thursday after many calls, the City of Edmond came out to look at her meter. They told her it was broken,” Pruett said. “Her water bill this month was $900. The month before that — $600.”
Pruett said that she and others are experts on their budgets and know how much “things” should cost.
“Is someone going to look into all of it, and are we all going to get refunded or do we have to all individually come into the City of Edmond,” Pruett said.
O’Neil suggested for concerned utility customers to contact City Finance Director Warren Porter at 405-359-4654 to investigate each inquiry. Stevens and City Councilman Nick Massey said it would be more efficient to email Porter at Warren.Porter@edmondok.com.
“Oftentimes with this being a public service company and us being public and being so upset, sometimes those situations can have greed at the root of it,” Pruett said. “So I just think you need to look into that.”
O’Neil said part of the reason why water bills are high is because the city wants its customers to conserve water.
The first 10,000 gallons of water are billed at a lower rate, currently $6.68 per thousand gallons plus a base charge of $11. The next tier is 11,000 to 20,000 gallons is $7.72 per thousand gallons of usage, and the next tier of 21,000-plus gallons is $9.64 per thousand gallons. This practice allows customers using less water to have a lower bill. Customers consuming more water during summer months pay for more of the city’s costs associated with peak infrastructure.
“All your numbers up here don’t make any sense,” said Crystal Wyckoff, of KickingBird Estates, “when in May I filled a 30,000 gallon pool from empty, and my bill was not as high as it was last month or the month before.”
She asked what is going to be done to solve the high consumer water bills.
“I don’t want to email every time my bill is high to say, ‘Hey, come look at this,’” she said. “I had Leak Detect out — I had my sprinkler guy come out. I’m out another grand for that. That’s not okay. So what’s going to be done?”
O’Neil said the city council is determining how broad the problem is and will be discussing it.
“I think it’s pretty viable here that we’ve had, particularly in some areas, something unusual happen,” O’Neil said. “And I don’t know what it is either. I thought it was unusual for me. And I’m hearing more from other people who’ve had the same kind of experience that I’ve had.”