The city of Edmonton’s water utility wants to do more to recover what it spends on new water taps and on equipment damaged by customers.
Howard Dickson, superintendent of the Department of Public Works, told the city council this week that it costs the utility $454 to tap new customers into the city water system. The customer charge is $350 in the county and $325 in the city, amounts that haven’t changed for several years.
Meanwhile, damage to meter box lids and other equipment is a problem with some customers, Dickson said. Sometimes, customers who are widening their driveways will call and ask for the box to be moved, which costs $125, he said. Other times, the lids end up broken for a number of reasons, including being run over.
The lids cost $28, Dickson said, but sometimes he recovers a portion of that by selling the broken pieces for scrap.
One customer used a blow torch to thaw frozen lines and damaged the regulator equipment, which cost $55 to replace, excluding labor costs, Dickson said.
“I’d like to have the authority to charge these people for what they damage,” he told the council.
Councilman Curt Estes said he thought the council had already decided those charges would be added to the customer’s bill, and Mayor Howard Garrett said the charge should be put on the bill.
Dickson said he has charged customers for damage before, but some have refused to pay that part of the bill.
City Attorney Barry Gilley said he believed the charge could be put under “miscellaneous” on the bill, and if the customer doesn’t pay it within a set timeframe, their service should be cut off as it would for the other portions of the bill.
Garrett suggested a notice could be sent advising the customer of a certain number of days to respond. He asked council members whether they thought it was OK to charge for damages, and no one opposed, so he said he would check the billing software to determine the best way to add it.
Regarding the water tap fee, Garrett said Gilley had advised him it could be changed with an ordinance, so he told Dickson to get a copy of the ordinance in which the fees are set and compare the fees with current costs and suggest any chances he believes necessary.
Dickson said in a phone interview Wednesday that more problems had occurred since the meeting. On Tuesday afternoon, a customer had a leak under the house and tried to turn off the water and broke the valve. Workers had to dig up the entire meter box, he said.
City employees will come and turn water off at the meter for the customer if the customer will only call, he said.
Dickson said he’s also had customers who turn the water on and off at the meter each time water is needed for a shower, for example, rather than repair a leaky faucet. Such frequent turning of the valve wears the brass notch to the point it is unusable, he said.
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