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City still calculating sewer rate payment problem

By Staff | Feb 2, 2010

Cape Coral City Manager Carl Schwing said Monday that city staff still does not have a clear idea of how much money will have to be refunded to rate payers who were overcharged for sewer usage between 2005 and early 2010.
Schwing said members of city staff worked through the weekend trying to decipher the number, but that figure is proving elusive.
“We still don’t have the numbers we might have to refund on this issue,” Schwing told City Council Monday.
Since 2005, 143,366 residential, 3,656 duplex and 3,812 multi-family accounts that used more than 10,000 gallons of water were overcharged, according to an e-mail to City Council from Schwing last Friday.
Schwing said there was some confusion the past few days about the figure, and that the number represents the amount of billings over the 5-year period.
He said the city, on average, sends out 50,000 billings per month, which equates to over 3 million billings over the 5-year period.
The 143,366 residential billings represents less than 5 percent of the total billings, according to Schwing.
“I’m not trying to minimize this at all … just trying to put this into perspective,” he said.
According to the e-mail from Schwing to council, the city was working with a customer who was unhappy after a broken water line spilled water into a canal.
Since the water did not enter the city’s sewer system, the customer did not want to pay the charges for all that water being spilled into the canal.
During the review, city legal staff discovered one glaring discrepancy in the billing process: Before 2005, the city had capped the sewer charge to water usage of no more than 10,000 gallons, but a resolution in 2005 removed that cap, and subjected all water usage to a sewer charge.
Now city staff is trying to figure out who was overcharged, and how to refund that money, especially with different rates each year over the last five years, and a shifting population that moved according to the boom and the bust.
Schwing said that while the final figure is still eluding city staff, so to is why the oversight was allowed to occur.
“We were unable to tell what the legislative attempt of the council at that time was,” Schwing said.