Wykoff council still dealing
with water utility billing issues
Monday, April 15, 2013 12:14 PM
Wykoff's new water ordinance was the center of discussion once again as residents and landlords spoke to the city council last Monday night on the discrepancies between who is responsible for deposits and who has actually paid deposits, and also on how to fairly distribute bills to renters.
Resident and renter Lois Suckow sat before the council to request that the city either refund her utility deposit of $150 if it chooses to continue to send her bill to her landlord Philip Eickhoff after the passage of the ordinance, or send a bill directly to her, as she considers herself to be a customer of the city.
"I'm one of the people who live here. I'm not a property owner, but I live here. I still don't understand why you won't send me, a renter, my utility bill. It has really stuck me that I don't get my own water bill," she said. "Section B, part one deals with that if a tenant of a landlord wishes to be deemed an authorized agent of the landlord, they can be, and because of that, I am strongly considering asking my landlord to deem me an authorized agent. The ordinance also states that the owner or customer is responsible for paying the bill. I am your customer."
Mayor Lyman Hare countered, "Philip Eickhoff is our customer. Ordinance 206 is not going to change."
Suckow maintained, "I have been your customer for the past seven to eight years, and to be told I'm not your customer when I've paid my bill and on time...the next time you pass an ordinance, I would appreciate if you would consider the people of the whole town. If you consider me not a customer, then I ask again for a refund of my deposit."
Whether to refund Eickhoff's $300 in deposits on two rental properties as voted upon during the March meeting ensued, and discussion lasted nearly an hour and a half as the council and Eickhoff tried to determine how many meters, when he paid deposits on them and how much was paid for each, given that the city changed its deposit rate from $15 per meter to $150 per meter in 2006, then replaced meters this past November. Motions to refund his deposits were made but failed for lack of seconds as the council struggled to discern who should receive the refunds - Eickhoff or his tenants - and how much, or if Eickhoff actually owes deposits on the new meters.
Eickhoff noted, "Last month, you listed 36 delinquent property owners, and only two of them that I'm aware of are rentals, and this month, there are 12. Your problem isn't with bills. It's with property owners."
The council mulled directing city clerk Cheryl Davis to research which renters in Eickhoff's PME apartment complex had paid their deposits, find proof that they had and bill Eickhoff for the remaining. Finally, it voted to refund deposits for tenants residing in the first three units of PME.
The utility billing headache continued to flow when Eickhoff pointed out that he owns the Wykoff post office building and that the contract with the United States Postal Service requires that the bill be sent directly to the post office, not to the landlord - his request directly contradicted Ordinance 206's requirement that the landlord distribute the bills to tenants.
"I received a notice that the post office has an unpaid water bill. I have a lease with the postal service for eight more years, and the contract is signed with no changes. It has to have a separate meter and an invoice provided, so that's who you are going to have get paid from," said Eickchoff. "The bill can't be sent to me, then I have to bring it back and hand-deliver it from my house in Fountain to the post office it was mailed from."
The council chose to allow a simple address change in order to correct the delinquent utility bill problem, given that the post office's bill would be further and further in arrears if no change was made.
Councilors reversed a pay request made to WHKS, the city's engineer, as it had mistakenly voted to pay $52,635.81 to the engineering firm when in fact, the amount was due the city as a reimbursement from a fiscal agent for costs incurred through the early planning stages of the design of the new wastewater treatment plant. Next, it paid $3,721.24 to Dakota Supply Group, the firm that handled the replacement of water meters throughout Wykoff, as the retainage due the contractor.
In other business, councilors approved the purchase of a chainsaw for the city maintenance department, passed a motion accepting the personnel policy's item on background checks, pursued further information on a fire call ordinance to satisfy residents' insurance companies' need for such in order to reimburse policyholders, and talked about installing stop signs on the corner of Main and Pearl streets, as traffic passes by that intersection too quickly.
Lastly, Corey Hauer of LTD Broadband presented his proposal to post a satellite dish on Wykoff's water tower to receive broadband wireless Internet service transmitted from another location to the west in order to serve residents who wish to purchase the service. Hauer already has receivers on towers and grain legs in Ostrander, Grand Meadow and Chester, Iowa, and hoped that the council would compare his service to its current provider, Arvig. "This is significantly faster than DSL, and rain doesn't affect it."
Councilor Jeremy Comstock asked, "What if it gets struck by lightning? Will the power surge take out our repeater?"
Hauer replied that his equipment is "mostly plastic" and that it would surrender before causing repeater failure. The cost to operate the equipment stands at "about $1 per month," and the city would receive free Internet service if it allows placement of the satellite.
The council decided to discuss the matter further and contact Hauer if it wants to use LTD as its provider.