Friday, December 17, 2010

Water mystery leads to dispute ordinance

Blaine Manor water use surged 5-fold last summer


By TONY EVANS
Express Staff Writer

Hailey is a city that takes water conservation seriously. The city installed water meters several years ago to measure consumption, goes to odd-even watering says in summer and recently passed a tiered water-rate system to penalize water hogs.

Yet city officials have yet to solve the mystery of off-the-chart consumption statistics that occasionally show up.

Last summer, the Blaine Manor nursing facility's water consumption suddenly and unexpectedly rose from about 200,000 gallons per month to 1.2 million gallons per month, a more than five-fold increase.

"They could not possibly have used that much water," said Public Works Director Tom Hellen. "Unless they flooded the basement."

Hellen said such anomalies turn up from time to time with no explanation.

Rather than waiting for a solution to the mystery, the City Council passed a water-meter-dispute ordinance on Monday that allows for a partial refund of charges, or credit for future water use, if water consumption rises more than 50 percent over the previous year's monthly use.

The Public Works Department will perform a water-line leak check on the dwelling before making a refund. The city will also reimburse the water user for water bill late charges if the spike in use goes unexplained.

Tony Evans: tevans@mtexpress.com




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