By Neil P. Allen
CHARLESTOWN, NH–Members of the Crown Point Mobile Home Cooperative in Charlestown left the Selectboard meeting on June 7 with no decision on their request for an abatement for their water bill following the discovery of a water leak that could have been ongoing for several weeks.
“We didn’t know we had a problem until we got the water bill and it was 10 times the normal amount,” said Cooperative President Frank Amato. They checked to see if the $13,000 bill was an error but it wasn’t.
“We acted very quickly and we’re asking the town to give us an abatement,” he continued.
The leak was found four feet under the asphalt next to one of the mobile homes. They found it after shutting off each curb stop during a three-hour ban on water use, according to Amato.
“I was told by the new town clerk that they did know there was a discrepancy,” Amato said.
“They assumed we knew we had a leak. Had we known we would have fixed it.
“The final bill could be substantially higher,” he continued, citing the lag between when the meter is read to when the bill goes out as part of the problem.
The selectboard members were sympathetic but were unable to grant an abatement at the meeting.
“We have never abated water that has run through a meter,” said Selectman Thomas Cobb.
“We’re not running a for-profit water department. If we give an abatement we’re going to take a hit as a town. We can’t honor the request.”
Town Manager Dave Edkins agreed.
“We have abated the sewer portion because it hasn’t gone into the sewer,” he said. “It cost money to produce that water. All the others in town would have to pay for it.”
Selectboard member Steve Neill announced that no decision would be made on the abatement at the meeting.
“Let us check with the water department and those at the town office,” he said. “If one of them made that statement, they may have attributed it to another problem or made an assumption.
“We’re in a tough spot with this,” he continued.
Later in the meeting, Cobb called Water Department Superintendent David Duquette and asked him how long he had known Crown Point had a leak.
“Known for a year there’s a leak there, I told them three or four times,” Duquette said.
Cobb asked if it was in writing, Duquette said he wasn’t sure.
“I hope you have documentation that you told them,” said Cobb. “We have a he said, she said situation here.”
Duquette refused blame for the delay between the reading and the billing.
“That’s the office, not the water department,” he said.
Cobb directed Duquette to send a certified letter to water users when they notice there is a leak in the future.
“It would be nice to be able to say we sent a certified letter,” said Cobb.
No time frame was given for when a decision will be made on the abatement.
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