A Hard Winter

The Parkersburg Utility Board has made an excellent decision in allowing staff members more discretion to reduce water bills made exponentially higher by leaks caused by a terrible winter. Pipes that would not have frozen in an ordinary year could not stand up to the extended low temperatures endured in the area.

As a result, a group of residents whose bills might normally have been closer to the hundred-dollar mark saw bills that probably looked like a joke. The worst case was a bill for $4,147.45. A person could purchase a decent car for that amount. Another example was that of a woman with a modest fixed income whose bill came in at 50 times its normal amount. Thank goodness utility board members have enough common sense and decency not to inflict that kind of financial punishment on customers.

While they have taken the reasonable step to ask customers to prove they took precautionary measures against frozen pipes this winter, the board knows, as Manager Eric Bennett pointed out, that some of these breaks would not have happened if conditions had been more like the winters of the previous several years. Lines broke in insulated walls.

It is important that the board allowed staff to make adjustments to bills on a case-by-case basis. Not everyone with a higher-than-normal water bill over the past several months was the victim of an unpreventable leak. But some folks deserve the extra attention, and the board’s attempt to do the right thing.

“It’s not going to affect our financial bottom line,” Bennett said. “But some of those people, it’s going to have a drastic impact.”

He is right. But because of the board’s decision to be fair in the matter, those people should at least be able to keep their heads above water.