| By Jason C. Mattox
Problems with water bills prompted the City of Batesville mayor and aldermen to allow two billing adjustments and make changes to meter reader routes.
The action came at their Tuesday meeting this week.
The first adjustment allowed was a waiver of penalties to Boyce Crowell who appeared at prior meetings of the Batesville city board with billing disputes.
Crowell, who maintained his claim that he went months without receiving a water bill at his business, asked the city to remove a 10 percent penalty that had been added to his bill this month.
"You ruled on this and there was a penalty added," Crowell said of last month’s decision to allow him to pay the balance of the $800 bill off at $100 per month. "All I am asking you to do now is remove the penalty that was added."
Ward 4 Alderman Bobbie Jean Pounders made the motion, which passed unanimously, to remove the penalties from Crowell’s bill.
The second billing adjustment came when aldermen unanimously voted to lower the water bill of Steve Whitworth to $18 for the month of July.
Whitworth appeared before the mayor and board questioning why his bill for July was $55 when it had been less than $20 monthly for more than a year.
"I just can’t understand how the bill would almost triple from one month to the next," he said.
Ward 3 Alderman James Yelton said he didn’t believe the meter was being read on a regular basis.
"I think if you go back and look at the bills, you will find that it hasn’t been read for months at a time," he said. "There is no way a man can use the exact same number of gallons from one month to the next, especially six months straight."
Yelton suggested having the gas and water superintendents spot check behind meter readers.
"We need to get on top of this," Alderman-at-Large Teddy Morrow said. "We are losing money on the water department anyway, and we can’t afford to keep giving water away."
Following both adjustments, Ward 2 Alderman Rufus Manley suggested the four meter readers be rotated.
"I know it might take some people time to learn a new route, but we would know they were reading the meters," he said. "This is something we really need to do or we are going to keep having problems.
"We have been getting complaints about water bills regularly for the past 18 months, and it’s time we did something about it," Manley added.
Gas Department superintendent William Wilson, who has two of the gas and water meter readers in his department, said a previously discussed plan would have rotated the readers every six months.
"I think we changed them once while Mayor (Bobby) Baker was in office, but we didn’t after that," he said.
Manley’s motion to begin rotating meter readers every 90 days, beginning with the next reading cycle, passed with a unanimous vote.