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Snippet of a City of Ferndale utility invoice (March 15, 2017). Photo: My Ferndale News

Recent water/sewer/stormwater bills from COF have neighbors concerned

Spikes in recent utility billings from the City of Ferndale (COF) caused some neighbors to compare the increases with other neighbors. What was discovered were increases in the range of little to no change up to double the amounts previously billed.

Some neighbors saw their utility charges drop and then dramatically increase over the past two billings.

When approached with these findings, a COF spokesperson said the unusually harsh winter weather may be a factor both in the COF being able to read water meters as well as their customers’ water usage.

Problems began during the first week of December when COF crews were unable to read the meters of approximately 800 COF water customers due to the weather. These readings would be used for bills covering October and November usage. In the absence of readings, City used the lowest water usage during the previous year for the October/November billing. This resulted in lower than expected bills for some.

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The expectation was to use meter readings collected early February for the next billing (December/January) and make any needed adjustments due to the estimate applied.

But COF meter readers were stymied again by the winter weather during the first week in February. According to the COF spokesman, waiting to access the meters was preferred over applying another two-month usage estimate.

Readings were able to be done the week of February 13th. This later meter reading meant readings included about two weeks additional water usage.

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In short, the recent December/January bill includes two extra weeks of water usage and, for the 800 customers, an adjustment due to the low usage estimate applied to the October/November billing. The net of these factors resulted in much higher bills for some.

The COF spokesperson said most of the upcoming February/March bills can be expected to be lower since they will not include the two weeks of February usage already included in the December/January billing.

The COF spokesperson pointed out in an email, “This is in addition to the usual slew of factors affecting water usage during winter weather. Having children home from school during the day usually means higher usage. People leaving their taps dripping to prevent frozen pipes is another common cause for increase, and the City always urges anyone with an unusually high bill to check for running toilets and leaks which can have a serious impact on their bill.”

Central City Water Association customers may also notice a change in their billings due to the installation of new water meters during the recent replacing of water mains when they were connected to the COF water system. According to the COF spokesperson, these meters are more accurate than the older ones they replaced.

COF utility bills are sent every other month and costs for water, sewer and storm drain fees are included.

* Storm drain – a fixed bi-monthly amount that changes only when there is a rate change implemented by city council.
* Water – a combination of a base fee plus usage as determined by water meter readings.
* Sewer  – a combination of a base fee plus usage as determined by water meter readings.

Sewer costs are calculated from water usage except during the summer (June to October) when the average from the previous winter billings are used. This is to account for outside watering that doesn’t end up in the sewer system.

The COF spokesperson said he urges anyone who still has questions about their COF utility bill to contact Utility Clerk Mandi Zimm by calling (360) 384-4269 or via email to utilitybilling@cityofferndale.org.

 

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