Aspen Hills water bills still haunt board

JOHNSTOWN — Town Board member Tim Rizzo brought up concerns regarding Aspen Hills Water District during the board’s regular meeting Monday.

Rizzo read out loud what he wrote as a “letter to the editor.”

Rizzo’s letter is in relation to the water leaks that occurred to about 55 homes in the town of Johnstown on Route 67 and other nearby streets including Breckenridge and Horseshoe drives.

The town has been reviewing the circumstances surrounding a leak in the Aspen Hills Water District that lasted several years and caused increased water bills.

Water had been leaking for four years due to a contractor who hooked water lines into several lots without permission. The contractor hooked up to a city fire hydrant to test the lines for leaks, but never turned them off. The city capped the leak when it was discovered in 2015. That leak was estimated to have cost the district’s residents to be overcharged on their water bills around $59,000.

Rizzo stated from his letter that “Aspen Hills Water District has not been resolved and I greatly ask the city of Johnstown to negate the costs,” Rizzo read. “In review, I have a question in terms of usage maintenance and the ability to charge residents for water that wasn’t technically provided to the customer. Likewise if there were a fire or linebreak, water calculated to the master meter would have been charged to the resident possibly based on the scenario that is being highlighted.

“Secondly, maintenance fees [are] typically incorporated in the usage rate. Usage will refer to a line break, a leak, flushing of systems and require fees support repair,” Rizzo continued. “The residents’ [are] only responsible for the lateral from the point of connection to the house.”

He said the city of Johnstown should further investigate and it is the Department of Public Works’ responsibility to maintain it as a public utility.

“I believe the residents were wrongfully charged,” Rizzo said.

“I agree with you on pretty much everything you just said,” Supervisor Jack Wilson said.

He said the statue of limitations ran out and they are looking to see what can be done to bring the situation to a closure.

Rizzo disagreed saying he doesn’t think there is a statute of limitations because a maintenance fee was collected.

Wilson said that the contract with Aspen, which has since expired, states the town has to pay according to the master meter and that’s how the bill was submitted to the town. Now Aspen no longer takes the readings from the master meter.

This led to a disagreement between board member Walter Lane and Rizzo. Lane had asked Rizzo when he last read the contract.

“I am not going down your avenue right now,” Rizzo said to Lane.

“You wait to do these things until the media is here, so you can stand up and make a statement and I don’t disagree with some of the things you say, but you did not ever read the contract, so you don’t know what the contract said and you’re making statements about what should and shouldn’t be done according to 250 case laws that you found on a computer that have nothing to do with what we are facing here and so if you read the contract, everybody sort of did everything what they were supposed to do according to the contract and I agree with this, that when they noticed something was wrong, they should have gone out and looked for it,” Lane said.

He added that they are slowly working on the issue and hope to get caught up.