Water Meter Error - Pleasanton residents Around Town, posted by Resident, a resident of the Vintage Hills Elementary School neighborhood, on Oct 29, 2009 at 10:07 am
I am interested in comments from those residents (or city officials) who received a letter this month from the City of Pleasanton correcting a water meter charge error.
In my case, the letter states that the city water meter charge does not agree with the actual size of the water meter installed at my home. My home is over 15 years old. I am the third owner. This correction increases the rate from $15.70 to $39.25 - not an insignificant increase. My understanding from the city is that this error affects somewhere between 500 and 1000 homes in Pleasanton. That's a pretty big number and range. How do they know there's that many homes affected but can't pinpoint it more closely than +/- 500? It just doesn't sound right.
My understanding, again from the city, is that this larger meter that was installed has nothing to do with water usage - I've still paid the correct dollar for any individual water usage. It is for the "potential" to have more water pressure if needed for an inside fire sprinkler system - which I do have.
I have been a resident of Pleasanton for 20 years and do not wish to wage a war....but it's the principal of the situation. When I bought the home 7 years ago there was no mention of an error -nothing in the title search - so I bought the home with the stated city amenities and charges that were in effect. Why should I, or anyone else, be "surprised" now.
It seems odd to me that so many homes could have this same error made. Is the City sure there wasn't an "agreement" in effect at the time the homes were built. Perhaps an "agreement" with developers to entice them to install home fire sprinklers in their plans. Perhaps they automatically installed larger meters to accommodate fire sprinklers at the lower rate? That would make sense seeing that so many homes are affected. However if that happened to be the case, it should not be passed on to residents 15 years later.
I don't mean to be nasty - but this is no small increase on top of the property taxes and city service fees I already pay. It smells to me like the city has decided to come up with a way to increase revenue in this tight econmic time. I'd be interested in comments on this particular topic.
Posted by Ripped off by the Water Company, a resident of the West of Foothill neighborhood, on Oct 29, 2009 at 10:49 am
We also received the letter stating our bill will increase. We have lived in our home for 10 years. How is it the City sent the wrong meter to be installed in all these homes without noticing the error? Why does the meter size make a difference on our bill, which will be increased over $140.00 a year? It doesn't mean we are using more water. If we do use more water, we are charged on the usage.
The part that bothers me the most is Pleasanton sent the letter without an apology. Instead, the letter stated, "The City has elected not to back bill you for these charges but instead to correct the error going forward". In other words, you're lucky we're not back billing you!
Posted by T.H., a resident of the Pleasanton Meadows neighborhood, on Oct 29, 2009 at 11:38 am
I know the answer! I saw a guy in my neighborhood checking water meters and saw it was marking down the reading so asked him what he was doing and explained it to me. Basically the standard meters (like the one at my house) is a, if I remember right, a 1/2" valve. The houses in say Ruby Hills, which he used as an example, is a 3/4" valve. So I guess that they had to check every meter in town to see what size valve is in place because also a few random ones in most neighborhoods were used as replacemnts or something. So if you have a half inch valve you have been charged correctly all along. If you have a larger valve you have been underpaying. I'm not sure if they are back charging those people or just correcting from now forward. Anyway we are paying the same rate per gallon but the larger valves where flowing more water than the meter was reading. I can explain any details I was bad at explaining in this post if you have more questions.
Posted by T.H., a resident of the Pleasanton Meadows neighborhood, on Oct 29, 2009 at 11:49 am
I read the previous posts, and you are lucky to not have to pay back charges. You have been using 33% more water than you are the city thought. No, it's also not the presidents fault. Meters are calibrated for a smaller valve so an opened larger valve flows more water than the meter reads when the valve is open. I know nobody likes paying more for utilities but here's my opinion here...Classic Pleasanton attitudes to be upset that they have been underpaying and now have to pay the price everyone else does. Don't be happy about the discount you have recieved for years, be upset that you have to pay full price now. You see the world as the glass is half empty with you seemingly overpriced water, not the glass is half full from discounted water from the past. The people with the larger valves are the lucky ones that have gotten a discount that will not have to be repaid, so smile and be thankful.
"Different size meters may indicate a reading in different resolutions. One rotation of the sweep hand may be 10 gallons or 1000 gallons."
If your larger meter is read like a smaller meter, you could be charged for 10 gallons when you're really using 1000 gallons. So the mistake is the City's for reading the meter wrong and not keeping track of which size meter you have which is why they are not applying back charges. Should they continue to charge you less for using more water? No.
Posted by Stacey, a resident of the Amberwood/Wood Meadows neighborhood, on Oct 29, 2009 at 9:57 pm Stacey is a member (registered user) of PleasantonWeekly.com
Honestly, I understand the frustration though. These homeowners feel like they're being hit unfairly and to some degree they are. I'd feel the same way. It is like the sort of sudden and high increase that occurred in property taxes to many which lead to the Prop. 13 backlash. It would be a softer blow to these homeowners if the City could somehow increase the charge slowly. An increase from $15.70 to $39.25 is more than 50%! If the increase were stepped over time that might be more acceptable as the homeowners adjust to their new water usage patterns. But I'm not sure if the rest of the City's residents would have sympathy enough to essentially subsidize a slower increase.
Posted by no subsidy, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Oct 29, 2009 at 11:16 pm
Sorry Stacey, will not fly. All of the rest of us have been paying for the water that we use and have conserved accordingly. These people got a free ride for a long time and by all rights should have to pay back the excess amount from past years. The taxpayers are already paying for people who bought homes they could never afford and got out of the debt tax free, people who are now buying homes (perhaps fraudulently) in order to get an $8,000 credit and spenders who file bankruptcy to get out of credit card debt that they willingly incurred. Another way to spend my money to subsidize people who have benefitted already is not going to happen.
Posted by Jerry, a resident of the Oak Hill neighborhood, on Oct 30, 2009 at 2:27 am
Ask the city to change the meter to a smaller valve if the larger valve isn't needed. They have employees that can change meters that become defective, so it's a cinch they know how to come out and change out the "3/4 inch" meter with a "1/2 inch" meter. Problem solved for the future...
Posted by P-TOWN, a member of the Foothill High School community, on Oct 30, 2009 at 6:06 am
This is nothing more than a money grab. The fire sprinkler system was required by the city to be installed in our homes due to the long response time of the fire department. You are also correct about it not having any effect on the rates that
we pay for our water. I was told that the new charges are the same rates that the city charges for a commercial building. We obviously don't live in commercial buildings do we? The city should be ashamed of themselves. They want to keep raising fees because they cant raise taxes. I would like to remind them, that fees are based on what it cost the city to provide that service. I don't know about you, but I don't recall anytime in the past where they have serviced my meter. I think the city should install a smaller meter in our homes, or change the commercial title to a residential title. The response time of the fire department is no longer an issue with the new Bernal Station.
Like a stated earlier, this is nothing more than a money grab, and I don't care
Posted by Linda, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Oct 30, 2009 at 6:30 am
My husband was told by a city inspector that legally we, all residents, are required to attain and pay for a permit to put in a sprinkler system. As such, he said that the city is considering go back and charging residents who do not have a sprinkler system on file. He told my husband that if they home was new and came with a system supplied by the builder it was ok as it was installed under permit by the builder, but anyone who installed their own would have to pay.
Posted by Resident, a resident of the Vintage Hills Elementary School neighborhood, on Oct 30, 2009 at 8:57 am
I think some of you may have misunderstood...according to my discussion with the city...those of us with incorrect meters have been paying fairly for water. We are paying for the water we use. The larger meter is needed for the "potential" need for more water pressure in the event that our fire sprinklers are needed. That's the example they gave me. When I asked if I had been paying for the correct amount of water - they replied yes. It was mentioned to me by the city employee that at one time there was a special deal with the water company with the size of meter that was installed....I don't understand what that means but it seems that there had to have been some unusual deal made that would have allowed so many homes to have this issue. As long as we are not using more water than we're paying for...they should forego this change much like a store would for a mismarked price on a product. This is essentially what has occurred with our homes. We bought them with one price sticker for services and now they're telling us there's been a mistake. A mistake for 15 years seems like there has to be a statute of limitations. And by the way, to the poster who said I need to pay my fair share....I do. I happen to pay the most property taxes in my neighborhood by a significant amount because I am the most recent buyer. What's fair about our tax proposition when it comes to property taxes. This is no different. I pay twice as much for services through my property tax than anyone else in my neighborhood because of the date on which I purchased it. Let's look at the whole picture.
Posted by Resident, a resident of the Vintage Hills Elementary School neighborhood, on Oct 30, 2009 at 9:03 am
Jerry...by the way - I asked about changing to a smaller meter and that was a resounding "NO" you can't. The smaller meter would not allow enough "potential" flow if there was a fire. It would impact the ability to turn on the fire sprinklers. Also, if I request a smaller meter anyway - which I obviously wouldn't do from a safety issue - I would have to pay whatever it costs the city to make the change. I was told I'm better off just to pay the increased rate. I do not live in a commercial building. My house is not a mega mansion like the ones in Ruby Hill. This is just wrong and I think the city needs to look a what they're doing.
Posted by Mr. Rooter Plumbing of the Tri-Valley, a resident of San Ramon, on Oct 30, 2009 at 9:17 am
First, I would like to say, 1/2" meters are far and few between, a "standard" water meter today is classified as a 5/8" meter. After 5/8" is a 1" meter then 1 1/2". Water meters read water usage in cubic feet of water passed, period. If you meter registers 100 cubic feet, 5/8" or 1", you used 100 cubic feet, if someone tells you different, the water meter is broken.
Secondly, if you would like to have your water meter checked to confirm what size it is, call us, we will do it at no charge.
Thirdly, I have always disagreed with Pleasanton's fire sprinkler water attachments. In most cases, your house was sized using the Uniform Plumbing Code, to deliver you with the flow of water to be adequate to clean yourself and to operate your fixtures completely, please don't confuse water volume with water pressure. After the house is sized to the UPC, in most instances where fire sprinklers are involved, the City had the plumber hook up your water supply with a 1/2" feed, even though the UPC states the minimum water supply to any structure is 3/4". Go figure. There hopes are two fold. One, if there is a fire, and say your washing machine and dishwasher are running water, they want the water to be directed to the fire sprinklers. The UPC has been broken to fight fires, when the City could have instead required two water meters (sorry this would probably cost you more money) one for your house and one to fight fires. Keep in mind that fire hydrants are not metered, we pay for that water in our property taxes. The other meter would be strictly for home use. Two, they believe that this 1/2" connection will act as a "backflow device", as far as I am concerned it is not a "listed" or legal backflow device. The City of Livermore also uses this 1/2" pipe for the same reasons. KEEP IN MIND, TO PREVENT THE POLLUTION OR "CROSS CONNECTION" OF THIS STAGNANT WATER TO YOUR HOUSE WATER, the water should be drained out of the sprinkler system and the house ANNUALLY. A single check valve is the only 'backflow' device you probably have on your sprinkler system (the lowest grade of backflow protection). I will climb off my soap box now in regards to fire sprinklers.
It is standard practice for water districts to charge customers extra for larger water meters, why, I do not know, you are allowed to use more volume of water faster with a larger meter, but no additional pressure. Any quesions?
Dave Ferguson, Mr. Rooter Plumbing of the Tri-Valley
Posted by scientist, a resident of the Avila neighborhood, on Oct 30, 2009 at 9:21 am
The meter needs to be for the right size pipe: 1/2" or 3/4". It is because the measurements are volume based: cubic inches converted to gallons. So if you have 1/2" pipe and 1" of water flows through it at the meter, you have 0.5 cubic inches of water. If you have 3/4" pipe and 1" of water flows through it (same length of water) you have .75 cubic inches of water. So if a a meter calibrated for 1/2 inch pipe is used on a 3/4 inch pipe, it is measuring 50% less water than what you are using.
Posted by Don, a resident of the Ruby Hill neighborhood, on Oct 30, 2009 at 10:26 am
You are all missing the point. All of us have been paying the correct amount based on usage. It is absurd that we are all paying an additional monthly charge based on the size of the meter. Once the meter is paid for, which probably occurred after a month or two, there should be no additional charges based on meter size. This is simply a tax on everyone that has no basis with relation to costs. It is akin to paying a monthly charge for your oven after you have already paid for it. After your oven is installed you pay for the electricity, (KWHRS), you do not continue to pay for the oven. Here, we paid for the watrer meter a long time ago and we continue to be billed for it every month. It makes no financial sense at all, it is simply a ploy to get more money for the city, a fee we all pay just for being alive and using water. I would sure like someone to prove me wrong in this. How about the city Engineer addressing this?
Posted by T.H., a resident of the Pleasanton Meadows neighborhood, on Oct 30, 2009 at 11:57 am
Very concerned - Thomas Jefferson was perfect in everyway and all his ideas were correct and apply to today. That's what I tell my slaves. If what he said was absolutely true then the countries with the smallest governments would be the places with the most liberty worldwide correct? That's why all those African countries are the land of the free, and the U.S., Canada, U.K., etc. are places full off tyrany.
Posted by Jim Anderson, a resident of the Ruby Hill neighborhood, on Oct 30, 2009 at 12:37 pm
The letter did not make clear whether usage charges would remain unchanged. Other (presumably incorrect) commenters say that the water usage itself has been under-reported due to the error. Am I safe in assuming that any meter regardless of size measures the quantity of flow correctly and thus produces an accurate volume based charge? Although I am grateful that I do not have to pay the back fees, about $1550 or so, it does remind me of a related issue. When we installed our lawn sprinkler system, we were told that in the City of Pleasanton makes the installation of a "deduct meter" a prohibitively expensive proposition. Other cities where we have lived do this routinely. A deduct meter enables the amount of water used on your lawn (the deducted portion) to be subtracted for purposes of computing the sanitary sewer demand while the actual total water used by the lawn plus the domestic demand is still charged correctly. Not having a deduct meter really means that I have been overpaying for sewer. I'd love to compute that overcharge as an offset to the meter error before I feel too guilty.
Posted by no subsidy, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Oct 30, 2009 at 1:38 pm
You Ruby Hill people just kill me. You should have allowed Livermore to be your address, then you would not have to deal with this. You have oversized houses, oversized SUVs, oversized yards and oversized egos. Deal with it and pay the bill.
Posted by Stacey, a resident of the Amberwood/Wood Meadows neighborhood, on Oct 30, 2009 at 1:58 pm Stacey is a member (registered user) of PleasantonWeekly.com
I'd just like to clarify that I didn't mean to suggest that it is, in fact, the case of larger meters being read like smaller ones, just that I was trying to find a more detailed explanation for T.H.'s comment above: "Anyway we are paying the same rate per gallon but the larger valves where flowing more water than the meter was reading." It is only a possibility that this was the case. The other case is that the meter is being read correctly, but Pleasanton had some mistake in their accounting and billing system.
I'd also like to repeat what Mr. Ferguson wrote above: "It is standard practice for water districts to charge customers extra for larger water meters, why, I do not know, you are allowed to use more volume of water faster with a larger meter, but no additional pressure."
Posted by Just The Facts Please, a resident of the Foxborough Estates neighborhood, on Oct 30, 2009 at 3:02 pm
No need to speculate further. Let's deal with FACTS! I also received the letter and just called the city to get the FACTS! As many have pointed out, those with larger meters have been paying for their water in fairness and based on their volume. The flat monthly rate for the meter is basically like a rental fee, much like your cable box. The larger meters are more expensive to purchase, therefore the "rental" fee if you will, is greater. Should your meter break or need service, the city would repair or replace at no additional cost, it is their equipment to maintain. While the increase in fee is high, no one in these economic times wants an increase in cost; it seems we are stuck with the higher fee due to error back when service was initiated. According to the person at the city, there is an established meter fee schedule and this increase is in line with that schedule. Complain and gripe as you wish but do so as an informed resident.
BTW - Dave Ferguson was spot on in his post which was well thought out and well articulated. I was glad to hear it and it confirm what I was told. I have used his services twice and been very happy with his company and the integrity with which he does business. This is a completely unsolicited comment by the way.
Disclaimer: The information above is only as good as the knowledge of person who answers the phone at the City's Utility Department. At least it is not speculation or rumor.
Posted by Mr. Cheney, a resident of the Downtown neighborhood, on Oct 30, 2009 at 3:22 pm
Good job Dave, I agree with what you're saying. Just to make sure some of the posters are not confused with the reference to "sprinklers" some of you are talking about Fire Sprinklers and some are talking about Irrigation Sprinklers. In this case we should be focused on total flow capability. This is what the city is looking at. There is a report that was done by the city that is very in-depth and was very well done by the Utility Department. It looked into making sure we had adequate water supply as needed in cases of fire and looked at our quality of water and so on. This is how it likly got started from this they saw the potential problem and are now looking to correct it. Not to say it's right to try and charge more now after a long ago mistake. I would agree with Dave stating that the 1/2" restriction put in place by the builders/city officials to act as pseudo back-flow, doesn't work. It works as a flow restrictor. It will only let you flow so many GPM as the 1/2" pipe is able depending on the pressure behind it. The system needs to have a proper shut down when the fire system is activated. I worked developing such a device and found it was not marketable and way to expensive to get the approvals needed. "FOR MR SCIENTIST" Meters measure the water usage and it doesn't mater what size the valve is. It will measure in the form it was set too, being in Gallons or in most cases Cubic Ft.
Good luck in getting any resolve. I would try the Grand-Fathered-In angel. But if you sell your home the new people coming in should pay the new rate. Sounds fair to me!
Posted by TM, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Oct 30, 2009 at 3:27 pm
Would PG&E be allowed to suddenly charge another $25 per month to residents that had thicker wire (in this case water meter) to support an electrical service they imposed on you (fire sprinklers)? I went to the California Public Utilities to file a complaint at:
Posted by resident, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Oct 30, 2009 at 6:10 pm
Jim, you are correct. The meters properly measured the usage. I confirmed this with the Water Dept. Those who say otherwise do not understand how water meters work, I guess. It was an error, I think, because when they started building houses with sprinkler systems they had to have 1" meters. Before that they were all 5/8" and the city didn't input the new meter size for new construction houses with sprinkler systems.
Posted by T.H., a resident of the Pleasanton Meadows neighborhood, on Oct 30, 2009 at 6:54 pm
For the record I did not make up my story or 'facts'. As I said I got the information from a city employee, which is where others say they got their 'facts'. It's hard to believe a city employee would not know what they are talking about...ha. Either way just don't pay your bill, or protest, or put it on the ballot or just complain.
Posted by Karen, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Oct 30, 2009 at 7:42 pm
The thing that got me was the letter's comment that they would not bill me for the past 10 years of being charged for a smaller meter.....they're nuts...how would I know what size pipe the City gave me? Am I expected to know such things and go measure my pipes? If that's the case, we should all watch out for all kinds of things we haven"t thought of...
Also, maybe it should be said politely here that residents with big homes pay TONS of property taxes that benefit the community as a whole and amount to much, much, much more than any of these "lost" water meter fees.
Posted by Very Concerned, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Oct 31, 2009 at 9:11 am
Every one of our founders was flawed, just as each of us are. Yes, slavery was absolutely the sorriest chapter in this nationís history, predating its founding and lasting far too long into the 19th century, with lasting negative impact to this day.
With that said, Jeffersonís words hold true:
"Government big enough to supply everything you need is big enough to take everything you have ... The course of history shows that as a government grows, liberty decreases."
As the principal author of our Declaration of Independence (from the well established tyranny of England), the third President of the United States, the founder of the University of Virginia, the architect of the Louisiana Purchase and the catalyst for western exploration via the Lewis and Clark Expedition, I dare say Jefferson more than made up for his failings. I know I havenít.
When President John F. Kennedy welcomed 49 Nobel Prize winners to the White House in 1962 he said, "I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent and of human knowledge that has ever been gathered together at the White House Ė with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone. (April 29, 1962 dinner honoring 49 Nobel Laureates (Simpson's Contemporary Quotations, 1988, from Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1962, p. 347).
Posted by Bob Johnson, a resident of the Mohr Park neighborhood, on Oct 31, 2009 at 9:40 pm
The meters all correctly measure water flow, regardless of pipe size. All of the people receiving this "tax increase" have paid fairly for their water. What they are learning is that the City has decided to find an additional half million dollars in tax increases from everyone who has a fire sprinkler system in a recently built house. Make no mistake about it!!! This is simply a tax increase masquerading as some type of clerical mistake. Shame on the City, shame on the politicians. Suddenly I have to pay more than my neighbor who has an older home without a sprinkler. I pay more for using the same amount of water.
The mayor should be ashamed of herself for allowing this to happen. What a amazing example of government and tax abuse. Throw the tea into the harbor!!!
Posted by jg, a resident of the Foxborough Estates neighborhood, on Nov 2, 2009 at 9:08 am jg is a member (registered user) of PleasantonWeekly.com
Does anyone know if it is possible to install your own water meter and replace the one the city installed? The letter states the added yearly cost for the 1" meter is ($39.25-$15.70*6= $141.30), so depending on the cost of a 1" meter (plus installation) it may make sense to do. The homeowner would then be responsible for repairs, but I don't think water meters break very often. I also think the city has to have paid for these meters even based on the old tax rate so this fee doesn't even seem reasonable to me.
Posted by Stacey, a resident of the Amberwood/Wood Meadows neighborhood, on Nov 2, 2009 at 9:52 am Stacey is a member (registered user) of PleasantonWeekly.com
I suggest calling around to see what the general going rate is on these residential 1" meters for fire sprinklers and then contacting the City Council if the Pleasanton rate is out of sorts. I got a look at a Livermore water bill for a house with a 1" meter and fire sprinklers and didn't see anything close to $39.25 on it.
Posted by T.H., a resident of the Pleasanton Meadows neighborhood, on Nov 3, 2009 at 11:34 am
The diffrence with your story and the truth is that the price was set long before the city did this audit. They were the ones who set the rates and made the mistake of not recording the meter size and thus correctly charging all along. If they made this rate up and then audited you would be right, but that wasn't the case.