Alcoa is fighting back against people tampering with their water meters by imposing fees that could cost offenders hundreds of dollars.
The city’s commission Tuesday passed on first reading an ordinance amending their current water service rules and regulations to include a fee for people caught tampering with their meters.
“The metering division is seeing increased activity in this area that is contributing to loss of revenue,” notes on the ordinance read.
Director of Public Works & Engineering Shane Snoderly said the increase has not been dramatic. He said the city has only had to deal with around three cases this year.
But three cases is three too many and with a citation as the only penalty for water meter tampering, the city is trying to recoup the cost of fixing broken meters, Sonderly said.
“Typically, it can be someone trying to back, get it run backwards, put a jumper in — which is just a piece of pipe,” Public Services Director Kenny Wiggins said. “They might cut the meter off ... There could be any number of things.”
Wiggins said that, whatever the tampering amounts to, it’s always some sort of effort to bypass the meter to reduce a monthly bill.
Tampering is not something easy for public service workers to detect. In fact, Wiggins said, his department has to be notified by finance office employees who notice abnormalities in the bills.
Only after spotting the out-of-place numbers can workers actually go out to a site and take care of the illegally jury-rigged device.
Outside of citation costs, the city is upping their price.
Effective October 8, fees for tampering will be $160 per service call during regular hours and $200 for a service call after operating hours.
Wiggins said finance employees helped come up with an appropriate fee, calculating the cost of man and machine hours it would typically take to make meter repairs.
Customers who tamper with their meter and require a visit from public services will also be responsible for the cost of all repair materials, the ordinance read.
“If we’re having to send a meter reader out to my house because I tampered with the meter, Shane’s having to pay for that,” Wiggins said, illustrating how, because of taxes, every resident becomes responsible when one person tampers with their meter.
Snoderly said that the city usually doesn’t lose a great deal of money when tampering occurs but it tries to respond as quickly as possible.
“No situation is the same,” he said. “We had one where ... they had actually messed with the pipe coming up into (the meter box), so we had to actually replace a section.” Ultimately, he added, it can take up to a month after the city catches the issue to the time when workers come and make repairs.
Water meters are first in line to have the fee for tampering applied, but the ordinance noted that the fixes won’t end there.
Come October, commissioners are also set to see increases for electrical meter tampering equal those passed in Tuesday’s meeting.
Both adjustments are set to go into effect simultaneously, notes on the ordinance showed.