By Debbie Rolen
MATEWAN - It was standing room only for the Matewan Utility Board meeting Tuesday evening with residents there to express their concerns with meter readings and billing. The meeting was long and chaotic, with tempers flaring at times on both sides of the issue.
Stoney Mountain Camp Road resident Joyce Bertschy spent most of the meeting talking about her issues with inaccurate meter readings due to faulty meters, which resulted in inflated usage numbers and higher bills. Bertschy came prepared with questions, paperwork, meter reading comparisions and published information she compiled regarding major water meter issues including erroneous water metering and damage to the internal components of water meters.
Matewan Mayor Shelia Kessler stopped Bertschy several times to let others, including Jenny Holt, speak.
“I had a leak in my water line around Thanksgiving. It took me almost three hours to find someone to come and cut it off, because they said we couldn’t cut it off ourselves, you all had to do it. Then in January, it busted from the front to the back.”
Kessler asked if they gave her a credit for having a leak, and Holt said they only give a credit one time in a year. She went on to say that, in a three-hour period, waiting for someone to come and cut the water off, a lot of water can run through the meter.
The problems with having individuals cut off the water at the meter were discussed and Kessler told Ms. Holt that if she has that situation again, to call the Matewan Water Department to report the problem and then go ahead and turn the water off.
Another resident spoke up to ask Tim Collins, an employee of Veolia Water, how long it would take to come and replace his meter to send it off for testing. Collins said they would come within the next day to do it.
The mayor said any resident who reported a problem with meter readings and asked that their meter be tested would be charged $25 if the meter test reveals no problems. If the meter test shows the readings are inaccurate, the resident will not be charged for the test.
The question of the sewage being as much as the water amount came up. The mayor said it always is. She also clarified that you can’t have sewer service without having water service.
Clarification with Collins as to how meter readings are to be performed was also given after residents reported meter readings being done by an individual who didn’t have a pad or didn’t write down the reading, but walked to a vehicle where they told another person the reading.
“They need to have the handheld in their hand when they walk to the meter, they need to look at, and then input, the reading. They don’t need to walk over to it or walk over to another person and tell them what to put in,” Kessler said.
Collins said that out of the 33 meters they reread this month, only one had been misread.
Bertschy brought up the issue of bad meters again and said she will be watching her new meter to be sure readings are accurate.
Collins told her the meters would be replaced over time, but it would take money. They have replaced 30 or so meters at this point and would be replacing a few meters every month. Collins went on to say they are doing a self-audit of meters and are going to try to do as many as 10 meters a week. He will report findings on the meters tested at the next meeting.
Cheryl Goad said she also had issues, but felt no time was available to allow residents to express concerns.
In the future, the board will have potential speakers at the meetings to sign up. They will have five minutes to speak.
Collins distributed information from Veolia Water to provide residents with information on how to conserve water and save money on their water bills.
Veolia Water works for the town of Matewan, providing maintenance and support for a fee negotiated annually. This fee was also a subject for discussion in the council meeting, which took place immediately following the utility board meeting..
No website is available for Matewan Water Department information, but customers can obtain rate sheets from the water department. If there are questions or concerns regarding billing or meter readings, customers may visit the office at Town Hall or call 304-426-4522.