City water meter probe comes up dry

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Posted: May 23, 2018 / Source: Ahwatukee Foothills News

The investigation into unusual spikes in Ahwatukee water customers’ usage last summer has ended with the city Water Services Department exonerated and scores of residents out hundreds of dollars in payments they called abnormally high.

But city Councilman Sal DiCiccio’s chief of staff remains convinced that some kind of malfunction in the city’s metering system was at fault in at least some of the unusually high bills. He just can’t prove it – and, apparently, no one will.

“This is the single most frustrating issue I’ve dealt with,” said Sam Stone. “It still bothers me.

“But I don’t know how you get at this,” he added. “I think you would have to sue the meter companies and that would cost thousands of dollars.”

The meter issues started as a trickle in August, when Susan Manolis, whose husband, Steve, is vice president of the Foothills Gateway HOA, complained about the July meter reading for one of the association’s five common-grounds meters.

The bill showed a 1-million-gallon spike for the 224-home HOA near Frye Road and 48th Street for a meter that monitors water for a tiny pocket park.

The reading brought an unexpected tab of more than $6,000. Though one sprinkler was broken, Steve Manolis said, the amount of water that the meter reported would have created a pool 23 feet deep.

By the end of August, dozens of homeowners jumped on social media to give their horror stories about surprising bills that cost them hundreds – and sometimes thousands – in charges they never expected.

Most of the readings involved usage in July and August.  In July, the city completed an eight-year project involving the replacement of 425,000 water meters within a 540-square-mile service area with so-called automatic meter reading equipment, which officials said would improve accuracy.

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