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Jim Thorpe reports billing problems

Published March 14. 2014 01:10PM

Water got some people boiling at the Jim Thorpe Borough Council meeting Thursday evening at Memorial Hall.

What started as a complaint about garbage fees, which vacation home owner Ed Knauss claimed were too high at $75 per quarter, led into a sometimes heated discussion of water, water meters, meter reading technology and inconsistency in billing.

Knauss also took issue with his water bill, saying that the usage didn't match the minimal time he was at his house.

Resident Sally Smith wondered why she was receiving garbage and water bills for a fixer home she owns, which is not occupied and currently has no hookups for water or sewer. Smith, who also owns rental properties, says her bill varies widely and thinks the meters may not be reading correctly.

"I can't account for the water bills," she said. "There are always inaccuracies."

Borough council Vice President Gregory Strubinger noted that the meters are read by radio signal, in thousand-gallon increments, and that residents shouldn't see drastic fluctuations, but said the council should look into the issue.

Water supervisor Vince Yaich hears from both the public and the water authorities on a regular basis regarding usage issues and inconsistencies.

"I'm getting beaten up out there," he exclaimed.

Yaich argued that the codes keep changing for what types of buildings people own residential, commercial, industrial and that his crew can't keep up with individual changes. He claimed it would be easier if there were uniform changes. He also noted that usage in 2012 was at 83,369,000 gallons, but for 2013 it was at 79,295,000 gallons.

"Did we lose that many residences?"

Yaich also said that billing issues, including the 1,000-gallon system, are losing revenue for the borough.

"We don't have money and we're losing money because of usage … we're bleeding pretty bad right now," he said.

Borough engineer Kim Mazur said his department recently got new billing software, and found that some accounts were being billed incorrectly.

"Some of the coding may have been improper. We need to take our time and go through all the accounts," said Mazur.

"We have 1,750 accounts. How many are problems?" asked council member John McGuire.

"Twenty percent," replied Mazur. "They're various problems."

That statement was met with a motion by McGuire to have a special council meeting, with all the water department officials and auditor present, to help find a solution. The special meeting will be announced later, and will be open to the public.

Also at the meeting, emergency services chair McGuire said that the fire department needed to recruit new people, especially young people, so they would most likely go to the schools to drum up interest.

Police Chief Joseph Schatz said that the department will use money received from the state and the National Transportation Safety Board, which is roughly $4,000, to combat aggressive driving. The department will also submit a bid on a new 4x4 vehicle, a 2008 Ford Expedition owned by Upper Macungie Township, to replace a vehicle that had been damaged in a crash.

Schatz also noted that the Carbon County St. Patrick's Day Parade went smoothly, and although there were a few arrests, mostly for drunken and disorderly conduct, none arrested were Jim Thorpe residents. Also, two officers are being sent to Harrisburg to be trained in narcotics arrest tactics.

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