The Hillsville Town Council considered three options in how to deal with a water leak that occurred over an almost three-month period at the Hillsville Pentecostal Holiness Church during its Oct. 22 meeting. The water leak was made worse since the water ran into the sewer system, thus increasing that bill, for a total water/sewer bill of $14,323.74.
In the end, the council decided on what was labeled Option 3, which reduced the church’s bill to $12,220.62. That figure was reached by billing the sewer usage at $4.27 per 1,0000 gallons, which is the town’s cost to treat the sewer without any consideration being given to depreciation. Allowing 100 percent depreciation for both water and sewer would have increased the bill to $22,513.98.
After reviewing the options, Councilman Billy Walls, Sr. said he was “inclined to go ahead with Option I.”
“I think this may be as much our fault as the church’s,” he said.
Option 1 would have reduced the church’s bill to $8,843.24 by discounting the sewer charge on the first of the two bills covering the water leak period. The first bill was originally $4,593.49, but that was before the town realized the leaking water was running into the sewer. Once that had been determined, the first bill rose to $10,073.99. The second bill of $4,249.75 remained unchanged.
Although there was an Option 2, it was not discussed. It would have simply billed the sewer as water and doubled each water bill, which would have resulted in a $12,776.94 charge to the church.
After Walls noted he was in favor of Option 1, Councilman Ed Terry came out in favor of Option 3.
“While it’s a tough bill to swallow, I make a motion to go with Option 3,” said Terry, who received a second from Councilman Greg Yonce.
The main point of contention rested with the last 28 days of the bill. Hillsville Pentecostal Holiness Church Pastor Jeff Pickett thought the town should have been aware of the unusual high usage before those final days.
Councilman David Young, a member of the church who abstained from voting in the matter, raised that question in the previous town council meeting when he said, “Somewhere along the line, we should have cut it off. I don’t understand how it went on so long.”
During the Oct. 22 meeting, Mayor Greg Crowder, also a member of the church who abstained from voting, said “He (Pickett) was billed after someone should have seen it.”
Pickett said he “took full responsibility for the water,” but felt the sewer charge was unnecessary since the water running into the sewer did not “contain any solids.”
Terry said he realized the town has “Billing issues that need to be resolved,” but added that would have to be a separate discussion.
“We have two separate issues,” said Terry. “Two councilmen have abstained and left the resolution to the three of us. First, based on our current billing system, flawed or not, Option 3 is the most favorable option. Two, the council, whether now or later needs to address our billing system. I would rather us, as a council, discuss and decide the best way to resolve it.”
Council then voted on Option 3, with Terry and Yonce voting for it, and Walls voting against it.