Tamarac resident paying off $1,113.25 water bill, asks Call Christina for help

Adjustment programs in place in other Broward municipalities

By Christina Vazquez - Reporter

TAMARAC,Fla. - Richard Havron typically does a morning walk around his Tamarac home, and it was during one of those walks in January that he noticed something was off with his water.

"I saw water bubbling out from my water meter," said Havron, who immediately called the city's water department. 

Tamarac officials were able to identify an underground leak on the property, and Havron paid the bill to repair it. He also got handed a $1,113.25 water bill that the city refuses to adjust due to the leak.

"I opened up the envelope and I almost fell off the chair," Havron said. "I couldn't believe that (was) how much money I was charged for the water leak."

Unlike other Broward County municipalities, Tamarac does not have a water leak adjustment program. My question was what is going to happen if I don't pay the bill," Havron said.  "And I was told the water would be cut off and a lien would be put on my house. There were no solutions, just a dead end."

 Havron was given a payment plan and will pay $75 extra a month on his water bill to cover that $1,113.25 bill.

That agreement with the city comes with the line written in bold text that reads: If you do not abide by this agreement, we will shut your water off without further notice.

Meters in Tamarac are read manually on a monthly basis, Elise Boston, a spokeswoman for Tamarac, said in an email to Local 10 News reporter Christina Vazquez.

Havron's meter showed no irregularities when it was checked on Jan. 4, according to Boston, and when the meter was read again on Feb. 1 it showed 156,000 gallons of water had been consumed since the January reading. 

"At Mr. Havron's request, we returned on Feb. 3 to re-read," Boston said via email.  "This reading showed a normal rate of consumption over the two days."

To compare, the average American uses between 80 to 100 gallons water per day, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Havron lives alone, and says his water bill is typically well below the $100 mark.

"There were no signs of a leak, or we would have contacted the homeowner," Boston said. "If the soil is sandy or the water line is deep enough, there might be no visible sign." 

By Feb. 18, Havron had come to City Hall and spoken to the city's customer service manager and comptroller, and was told that the city doesn't allow for the water portion of the bill to be waived, Boston said.

The city did offer Havron a the $75 a month payback plan, instead of the typical six month schedule. They also did made an adjustment to the wastewater portion of his bill, which Havron said was a little more than $20. 

This scenario doesn't play out everywhere.

The city of Hollywood has two programs, the High Use Bill Adjustment and Sewer Billing Credit, which provide a credit adjustment for the water usage, sewer usage or both, depending on the type of leak, according to spokeswoman Raelin Storey.

In Hollywood credit adjustments are calculated for toilet leaks, pool fills and broken pipes.

Miami-Dade County offers adjustments to the water portion and/or wastewater portion of the bill, if a resident gets a high bill as a result of a leak that was concealed underground or behind a wall.

Mary Lou Tighe, the executive director for the Broward League of Cities, said Hollywood, Miramar, Davie, Cooper City and Coconut Creek have some type of leak adjustment policy.While Wilton Manors, Pembroke Pines, Coral Springs and Hallandale Beach don't have water leak policy, they do have some policy with regard to sewer adjustment.

"Some areas such as Southwest Ranches, Hillsboro Beach, Lighthouse Point, get their water from other municipalities," Tighe said, "and therefore do not have an adjustment policy as they are paying for the water no matter what."

This led Local 10 News' Call Christina team to ask Tamarac officials if changes should be made to their ordinance in order to offer adjustments to the water portion of the bill, in the event of an underground leak.

"I am concerned with everyone who lives in this city," Tamarac Mayor Harry Dressler said. "So I will thank you for bringing it to my attention and I will address it."

If Tamarac takes up the issue, the Call Christina team will provide an update.

-Call Christina Team Member Sara Girard contributed to this story.

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