Relief may be just a swallow away with a certain brand of medication, but granting relief from a water leak tends to make the Greencastle Board of Works swallow hard.
Three times over the past two months local customers have petitioned the board to adjust water/sewer bills inflated by leaks in private plumbing. At the end of the panel's June meeting Wednesday afternoon at City Hall, the tote board read: One request granted, two denied.
The City Utilities Office is empowered to grant a one-time adjustment in a property owner's sewer bill due to a water leak.
While sewer bills are calculated via water consumption, typically excess water from the leak never makes it into the city sanitary sewer system. Because of that, a policy allows the sewage portion of the bill to be reduced to the average monthly charge once per 12 months.
However, anything beyond a one-time occurrence requires approval from the Board of Works.
Getting a favorable decision was E Street Holdings, represented at the meeting by member Steve Jones. The E Street firm recently purchased the old Berkshire Apartments at 601 E. Washington St. and 3 Durham St. from DePauw University.
On May 4, E Street Holdings was notified of a "substantial water leak," resulting in nearly six times the water usage by the former faculty housing units. The leak had apparently gone undetected during the rainy conditions at the time.
The result was an excess of $1,486.66 on the sewage bill for the property over the April and May billing periods (the leak occurred during an overlapping timeframe). The petitioner will receive a credit on the sewer portion of the bill since the total April bill had been paid.
The board unanimously granted the adjustment. Board member Trudy Selvia pointed out that prompt attention to the problem once it was discovered factored into the decision. Selvia made the favorable motion, with Thom Morris and Sue Murray concurring.
At the May Board of Works meeting, 2 S. Jackson St. property owner Bill Fenlon was denied a sewage bill adjustment for the old J.C. Penney building on the square. It would have been the second adjustment within a year, it was noted.
Morris said the board has gone as far as it can in leniency by granting one adjustment in a year and did not want to set a precedent by deviating from that. Mayor Murray agreed with adhering to the policy in place and made the motion to deny.
Judgment on the Fenlon request, which stemmed from a toilet that ran in a back room for several days without being detected, was denied on a 2-1 vote with Selvia voting against denial.
Also denied this week was a request by Rod Gaffney to have a water-only meter at 105 Fairview St. in the Foxridge area. Gaffney bought the lot adjacent to his house and tore down all the structures there to plant a garden and grow grass. The sewer line there is capped, it was noted.
Gaffney had hoped to water the garden and grass without paying for sewage on the water use.
City Attorney Laurie Hardwick pointed out that several requests for water-only services have been denied over the years by people putting in a pool or wanting to water their lawns or spray down their driveways.
It is a board policy not to grant a sewer adjustment in those cases, she said. Doing otherwise would require a change in the rate structure, the attorney pointed out.
To be consistent with prior policy, Selvia made the motion to deny Gaffney's request, which was made unanimous by Morris and Murray.