The city of Lawrence, Kan., claims Alvamar CC and Lawrence CC were under-billed for water that was used and owe a total of $260,000, even after a writeoff of $65,000. The clubs have not agreed to pay, citing questions about the mechanics of the city water meters’ inaccurate totals.
The city of Lawrence, Kan., agreed to write off $65,000 worth of water bills for Alvamar Country Club and Lawrence Country Club —but even with this concession, neither club agreed to a settlement with the city, which still contends the clubs owe a total of $260,000 for water that was used but not properly billed, the Lawrence Journal-World reported.
“We’re still optimistic that we’ll be able to reach some type of agreement with the clubs,” Assistant City Manager Cynthia Wagner said. “The situation obviously is unfortunate, but we’re still very much in the mode of trying to work with them on this.”
In June, the city discovered Alvamar Country Club was under-billed by about $240,000 for water usage from September 2008 to October 2011. The city also contends that Lawrence County Club was under-billed by about $85,000 from January 2009 to September 2011, the Journal-World reported.
After discussions with both clubs, the city reduced Alvamar’s total to $200,000 and Lawrence’s total to $60,000. But neither club has accepted those reduced amounts, Wagner said, and neither club could be reached for comment, the Journal-World reported.
The city hired an outside auditor, Mize Houser & Company, to review the numbers and concluded that the city’s calculations were correct. The golf courses still have unresolved questions about whether there were mechanical issues with the city’s water meters that led to inaccurate totals. Wagner said those issues are being reviewed, the Journal-World reported.
One explanation for the inaccuracies was a switch from manually read meters to remote readings with equipment that monitors radio waves that emanate from the meter. Wagner said the city believes a coding issue in the billing system caused a digit to be dropped from the water totals measured by the meters, the Journal-World reported.
“Instead of reading 130,000 gallons for example, it might show 13,000 gallons,” Wagner said. “We believe it was off by a factor of 10, at times.”
The time period when the city was experiencing the billing issues coincides with a time that Lawrence Country Club added its own irrigation ponds in an effort to reduce its use of city water, Wagner notes. Country club members have contended that is why the course’s billing from the city should have dropped dramatically, the Journal-World reported.
However, Lawrence CC recently sent a letter to its members, notifying them of a special assessment that would be added to membership dues to help pay for future water bills that are likely to be higher than budgeted, the Journal-World reported.
Wagner said the city’s review of mechanical issues is likely to be completed in the next couple weeks. She said the city is confident, after conducting a review of its largest water users, that other accounts were not under-billed, the Journal-World reported.
Wagner said the city’s policy is to try to collect on past water usage, even if the billing issue is the result of an error on the city’s part. City officials have said that not collecting on the past water usage would be unfair to the other ratepayers in the city’s utility system, the Journal-World reported.
“We just feel that it is important to properly bill for water that has been used,” Wagner said.