County gets big refund on Kingston water bills

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By Damon Lawrence

The city of Kingston wrote a check to Roane County for $106,162.74 last week.

The money was a refund for overcharges on the county jail’s water bills.

“We ended up billing them for water that we didn’t sell them because the meter was giving us an inaccurate reading,” Kingston City Manager Jim Pinkerton said.

Roane County Executive Ron Woody said Kingston Mayor Troy Beets brought him the check on Feb. 4.

“It’s a lot of money for a city to turn over at one time,” Woody said.

Pinkerton said he believes the city’s budget can withstand it.

“Part of it was in last fiscal year and part of it was in this fiscal year,” he said. “I think we’ll be able to handle it OK without it having any impact on our budget.”

The jail is on Third Street in Kingston. County officials began to notice some unusually high water bills last year. The bill for August was $21,459.69. September’s was $15,715.91 and October’s was $22,066.62.

The Roane County Commission added $30,000 to the sheriff’s budget in December because the high bills depleted what the office had to spend for water.

“If you were to look at the water bills, consistently for two-and-a-half years they were fine, and then all of a sudden it’s just went way out of whack,” Chief Deputy Tim Phillips said in December.

“There’s really nothing that justifies one way or the other why it’s like that. We can’t put our finger on it.”

Despite being puzzled, the county stayed on the issue.

“Kingston was up front once we finally all discovered what it was and they knew that they owed us some money,” Woody said.

Pinkerton said the city had a program a few years ago in which it replaced all its meters with radio-read meters.

“When we did that, apparently that meter at the jail was a compound meter and had a low side and a high side,” he said, “and apparently when they put that in, they put a 6-inch head on what should have been a 4-inch meter. We went back and contacted the meter people and figured out how to recalibrate it. That’s what the problem was.”

Last week’s check may not have settled the matter.

“If the check had written in here somewhere that endorsement means it’s all over, then I would not have accepted it,” Woody said.

“I want to see their calculations as well as ours to see if we have any differences in them,” Woody added.

“I’ve got a check, but there’s no calculations on how they arrived at it. For us to do our due diligence, we want to see how they arrived at that number.”