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City preparing for high water bill adjustment requests

LAWTON, Okla._ City of Lawton officials are preparing for an outpouring of requests from citizens looking to adjust a high water bill caused by a leak. An ordinance approved just last week by the city council to allow those requests goes into effect on December 10th. It's designed to help people who have a major underground leak on their main water line, by providing a reimbursement from the city for up to 200 dollars.

The ordinance used to be in effect, but was discontinued back in 2012. Some city officials say it was sometimes used irresponsibly, and the city code was too broad. Now there are more restrictions in hopes of only helping those people who truly need it.

Lawton City Councilman Dwight Tanner brought this ordinance back after hearing from citizens in his ward who had those leaks, only to discover there's no recourse.

"Let's say you get a leak,” said Tanner. “Then no matter what the amount is, whether it's $200 or $2,000 from 2012 until we just reintroduced the ordinance, you had to pay all of it yourself."

City Councilman Keith Jackson also supported the ordinance, but wanted to make sure it didn't allow for abuses.

"We just felt it wasn't right for taxpayers to pick up some people's negligence," said Jackson.

Revenue Services Supervisor Barbara Curran will deal with all the new adjustment requests when they start rolling in says the new code has time constraints and reimbursement limits to avoid any questionable claims.

"It's more restrictive than what we've had in the past but at least it benefits the citizen where they do have an opportunity in certain instances to get relief from a high bill," said Curran.

When a resident finds that they have a leak in their main water line they have ten days for a licensed plumber to come out and fix it. It cannot be a leak in a sprinkler system or a swimming pool. Also running toilets, leaky faucets or broken hot water tanks do not count.  Only one month's bill can be adjusted back to the resident's average water consumption, and only up to $200.

If the leak adjustment is denied by the finance director, you can appeal to City Manager Jerry Ihler and his decision on the adjustment will be final. The ordinance is not retroactive so any leaks before it goes into effect on December 10th do not qualify for a reimbursement.

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