By Chance Chamberlain
The Harrisonville Board of Aldermen fielded complaints at its Sept. 8 meeting which included a complaint by resident Ed Yoder who said his water bill skyrocketed during the last two months. His complaint was met by city administration which said they billed him based on the meter reading and that if he did not pay his amount due of $218, his water would be shut off.
Yoder said, “In the year 2019, I used a total of 11,400 gallons of water and the year before that I used 11,600 gallons. It doesn’t make sense to me that my bill in two months accounted for more usage than both of the last two years of usage.”
Yoder, who lives at 1002 E Pearl St., brought the issue to attention by explaining he typically uses between 600 and 2,000 gallons of water each billing cycle and it is usually on the higher end in the summer months because he waters his garden. In the months of July and August, Yoder was charged for usage of 11,000 gallons in July and 12,000 gallons of water in August.
“My bill usually goes up in the summer because I plant flower beds in my yard that are 15 feet long and they need extra water when it gets hot out. During the beginning of planting season, my bill accounted for 1,300 gallons of usage and it peaked at 2,000 gallons in April and May because that’s an important time for plant growth, so I water a little extra.
“Besides watering my flower beds, I don’t water my yard, I don’t wash my truck and I shower for five minutes, three times a week,” he said.
Yoder said he reached out to the city of Harrisonville for help, but they offered him none.
“I called the city several times about my issue and they told me that they would get back to me. When they did get back to me, they said that they had bad news because my bill rose from 9,600 gallons the previous month to 12,500 gallons for the months of July and August,” he said.
“I’m a cancer survivor and a heart patient and when they told me that I had to pay up or they would cut off my water I had to get off the phone because I almost had an anxiety attack.” He added, “I was one step away from going to the hospital.”
Yoder said the next thing he did was write the city a letter asking the city to come look at his meter.
“I wrote the city and they sent somebody out to test my meter. After they tested it, they said that it read accurately and that there were no problems. They told me that I should get a professional plumber to look for leaks, so I did. The plumber found no leaks and said that everything was in good shape.
“After the city tested my meter, they put it back in and my bill went back to normal,” he said.
Director of Administrative Services Jimmy Smith said he did everything he could to help with Yoder’s issue.
Smith said, “We read the meters about the same time every month and only estimate meters in extreme weather or special circumstances. His meter had not been estimated. Reads that seem abnormal are then flagged, investigated in the system and then potentially sent out for a reread.”
Smith added the city pulled daily usage data to give further proof the meter read correctly.
“We also pulled the daily data which showed certain days had significantly higher usage than others. The peak information indicates an intermittent usage problem rather than a leak that is constant. A constant leak would see a relatively flat usage from day to day, but higher than usual.
“With the assistance of the utilities department, I personally went out to collect the hourly read data from Mr. Yoder’s meter. Almost all the days that we tested seemed to have an event starting in the 7 a.m. hour which continued until just before noon,” he said.
Yoder has not paid his outstanding bill at this time and has not figured out the cause of the high usage on his account.