NILES, Ohio (WKBN) – The city of Niles is working to resolve a billing issue that has some customers getting free or reduced utility service.
Niles Service Director Edward Stredney discovered that more than 100 customers in Weathersfield Township had been getting free sewer service for at least five years.
The mistake has cost the city of Niles thousands in the sewer fund, and now that the error has been discovered, the city has to decide how to move forward.
Township residents pay a monthly bill that includes sewer, water and electric, and the billing mistake is costing the city of Niles about $150,000 in its sewer fund, alone. The city doesn’t know yet how much it lost in the light department.
When the city transferred to a new billing system, about 100 Weathersfield customers got dropped out and an unknown number of people paying higher township electric rates got put on the lower city rate by mistake.
“The software seems to be correct. It is just the information in the software that we are going through,” Stredney said.
Stredney said the city will go through all 22,000 accounts one by one and make sure each person is getting charged the correct rate.
Mayor Tom Scarnecchia says it’s an example of what forced the city into state oversight.
“This is one of the reasons, the little reasons, we are in a fiscal emergency, money that slipped through the accounts. It was brought on by the previous administrations and we are here to try and correct it,” Scarnecchia said.
Since the city is under state watch, WKBN 27 First News wanted to know why the mistake wasn’t caught sooner.
“That’s a good question for somebody else,” Stredney said.
Darlene Bell lives in Weathersfield and pays about $122 per month for sewer, electric and water. She doesn’t know yet if she is a customer who will see a rate hike but hopes the city won’t make customers pay to catch up.
“They should admit their mistake and make sure you’re only paying what you are supposed to pay,” Bell said.
Stredney wants to go before council next week to get permission to fix the sewer and light rates with new legislation. The city must also decide if they want to charge people for what they owe or start over with a clean slate.