Water billing errors show need for change in Gaines leadership

Posted 15 October 2017 at 9:16 am


Many of your readers from Gaines were shocked to open their water bills this quarter and find their bills had dramatic increases. In my case, an increase of over 67 percent from the previous month. According to the town website, these bills are in error, and that error has been blamed on the implementation of their new water meter reading system.

Some would chuckle at that, since the new system cost the town over $30,000 when, in the past, the town shared that system with the Town of Murray, and the required upgrade could have been shared by both towns.

The purchase of a new water meter reading system is, as they say, water under the bridge. We can’t change what the Supervisor has chosen to do. However, we can question not only the logic behind “becoming independent,” but the skill set of the Supervisor in managing a system upgrade to a critical component of the town’s operation.

If you live in Gaines, you know that, for the most part, your water bills don’t change too much from quarter to quarter. A quick look in my records finds that mine doesn’t change more than about 10% each quarter, and, in many instances, is within a couple of dollars of one another. I’m sure if you examine the water use history town-wide from quarter to quarter, the same is true, and that any large swings in use are directly tied to the weather and other predictable influences.

At the board budget meeting (October 9th), the Supervisor took the opportunity to talk about how there was a large increase in water use this quarter, going on to talk about how much “profit” is being made with the water system.

If you just changed water meter systems, and suddenly there was a very large increase in water use, wouldn’t that trigger a double-check of the accuracy? Wouldn’t you think it odd that so many water customer’s use skyrocketed? Don’t you compare the water billed vs. the water bought? The water billing and receipt clerks certainly can’t be blamed, since, due to high turnover, they haven’t had the benefit of experience to help them notice these errors.

In my professional life, I’ve been involved, many times, in major computer system upgrades that were much more complex than the water billing system. Part of managing that process is making sure everything is correct afterward by checking the validity of the data. This clearly wasn’t done, or wasn’t done properly. Errors happen when you take on projects such as these. Managing those errors before they compound into larger ones, as happened here, is a key component of running a business entity, Town of Gaines included.

Lastly, how many people in Gaines even know their bills are inaccurate? The Town posted on social media and their website, but why wasn’t there a release to the news media to help get the word out? If you don’t actively call the town, go to the website, or go on social media, you wouldn’t even know about this error. Why don’t we have the ability to call everyone and let them know? We now have all received a second bill, but with no explanation. What happened to people set up for auto-pay?

For these and so many other reasons, it is clearly time for a change in Gaines. You can make that change on November 7th.


Joseph Grube


(Grube is a candidate for Gaines Town Supervisor.)