Legislators Zona and Grozio call for water bill relief in LaSalle

May 24th, 2015

Source: Niagara Gazette

A pair of Niagara County lawmakers are calling on the Niagara Falls Water Board to waive first-quarter bills for residents in LaSalle who were without service due to frozen pipes through the first part of 2015. 

In a joint press release, Democratic county lawmakers Mark Grozio and Jason Zona said they do not believe it was appropriate for the water board to bill customers like those living on 72nd Street who were without water for several weeks at the start of this year. 

Grozio, who represents the LaSalle section of the city in the county legislature, called the situation “outrageous.”

“Lasalle was hit harder than any other area with frozen pipes,” he said. “Now, for it to happen for a second year in a row without resolution and to expect these residents to then pay for service they did not receive is crazy.”

Several homeowners on 72nd Street have dealt with frozen pipe problems for about two years now. The water board is in the process of hiring a private contractor to begin digging test holes on the street as part of a larger plan to identify any potential issues that may have contributed to the problem. 

Zona said he was “stunned” to receive telephone calls from residents who were without water service for up to six weeks that still received water bills for the time period in question this year. 

Under the circumstances, Zona and Grozio say the water board should, at the very least, waive the bills for the quarter for any resident that went without water service.

“Both Mark and I believe enough is enough. We are well past the time that the water board determine what the problem is and correct it. In the meantime, billing residents for a service they did not have is not only wrong, but a slap in everyone’s face,” Zona said.

In response, Water Board Chairman Ted Janese III said it was “unfortunate” that legislators Grozio and Zona did not contact anyone at the water board prior to airing their concerns as the organization could have made them aware of the programs and policies currently in place for billing disputes in addition to the “extensive financial and personnel resources NFWB expended assisting customers with frozen services during the worst winter in our area’s history.”

Janese also inquired as to whether or not the legislators thought the same should be asked of any other cities, towns or villages in Niagara County where residents experienced frozen water services this past winter. 

In addition, NFWB noted the following:

• Prior to this past winter, NFWB proactively expanded its Frozen Water Service Assistance Program (aka “Drip Program”) and issued notification to customers included in the program in November. The notification outlined the details of the drip program and the billing credit those included in the program would receive;

• When it became apparent that the number frozen services were increasing not only in Niagara Falls but throughout Western New York due to the coldest February on record, NFWB proactively implemented a hose run and jump line program and worked with affected customers and their neighbors to provide water service. Those customers that allowed hose runs had their meter head removed so they were not billed for consumption and only were billed at the quarterly minimum charge;

• NFWB expended more than $75,000 on personnel overtime, private contractors, and supplies trying to assist customers affected by frozen services;

• All customers have the right and ability to dispute a water or sewer bill. NFWB has been informing customers that have inquired about their bill that they can submit a Water/Sewer Bill Adjustment Application to the NFWB. Applications are available at the front desk at the water treatment plant or can be downloaded on-line at www.nfwb.org

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