LAWTON_All Lawton water and sewer customers saw an increase in their latest bills, but Tuesday the City Council ruled that some were overcharged. The new rates went into effect July 1, but for some, their July bills didn't include any water used in July.
After hearing several complaints from people who weren't expecting to see an increase on their bill for another month, the council ordered the city's finance director, Rick Endicott, to come up with a way to make things right.
At the council meeting two weeks ago, a man brought a July bill which only used in May and June, and he didn't think he should have to pay the July rates on water used prior to the billing increase. But Endicott said bills were based on when they were sent, not when the billing cycle ended.
"His billing date was May 22-June 23. He happened to be the one that got a bill that was sent out July 1. The resolution, in my opinion, clearly says that the rates were effective July 1."
Several members of the council disagreed, siding with the man with the complaint.
"I don't think it's right," said Jay Burk, Ward 3 Council member. "I think we have to fix it."
The city has 20 billing cycles a month. Bills are usually sent out about a week after the cycles end. If they billed people for only July water at the new rate, starting with billing cycles that began July 1, the new bills wouldn't start until August.
"It is next to impossible to go back and make whole anybody that got a bill after July 1 because you're going to have people that were billed on July 22," said Endicott. "That bill is going to encompass X amount of days in July and X amount of days in June."
Endicott said starting July billing at the end of July would cost the city $500,000 from the planned budget. But council members were adamant people not have to pay the increased rates without using water in July, and that they'd address the budget later.
"We'll have to figure out where to come up with 500,000," said Burk. "We have to do what we have to do. I truly believe that what's happened--it's not right. It's just not right."
They discussed several solutions, but Ward 3 Council member Janice Drewry proposed an idea to specifically address the original complaint.
"It goes back to the ones that were billed for May and June, and how they were billed," said Drewry. "If they used water in May or June and were billed for July rates, I think those are the ones that need to be adjusted."
After over forty minutes of discussion, the council finally chose a solution. If your bill was sent with the July billing rates and the cycle includes no July water, you are eligible for a credit on next month's bill. Those are bills from cycles 01-06.