If Middletown residents look closely at their water bills in October, they’ll see a pleasant surprise, even if it’s just a drop in the bucket.

The town’s commissioners voted Monday to give each water customer a rebate of 36 cents, after a discovery that the software error was causing some accounts to be billed an extra 1 to 3 cents per quarter. The move will cost the town $616.32.

In July, the town was notified by a resident that she’d been overcharged by 2 cents, according to the town’s water and sewer rates.

The billing system was adding an additional half-cent when the rate was an odd number, a quirk that’s different from other systems the town uses, according to a town memorandum.

According to a sample of accounts, 52.4 percent of accounts were overcharged by 2 cents, 44.2 percent were overcharged by 1 cent, 1.4 percent were overcharged by 3 cents, 1.4 percent were correctly billed, and 0.7 percent were undercharged by a cent.

The statute of limitations for civil complaints such as this is three years, or 12 billing quarters, according to the memo.

Rather than spend the time and effort to go back and figure out who was owed what, they decided to give everyone the maximum rebate of 3 cents, Burgess John Miller said Tuesday.

“We just erred on the side of caution,” he said.

While compensating for the error will cost the town more than $600, it’s considerably cheaper than the alternative.

When the town’s staff contacted the software company, they were told that to write and test a program to determine the exact amount that each account was over- or undercharged over the past 12 quarters would cost at least $1,200, and the total estimated cost was at least $6,000.

Miller said most people he’s talked to about the situation have scoffed that the town was even bothering to address the issue, but they wanted to make things right.

Commissioner Chris Goodman agreed after the commissioners’ vote Monday night.

“In the end, we’re doing what’s right,” he said.

Follow Ryan Marshall on Twitter: @RMarshallFNP.

Ryan Marshall is the transportation and growth and development reporter for the News-Post. He can be reached at rmarshall@newspost.com.

(5) comments

jschlepp

The point of bringing the issue up was to show that the town of Middletown was billing for water and sewer rates not in accordance with the town ordinance, and that the auditors and town management had missed it for many years. Obviously, the amount of money is trivial in this case, and an oversight, but in a larger arena, it would not be. I will leave my 36 cents to one of the wait staff at one of our wonderful restaurants in Middletown as an extra tip

careoseldc

I attended that town meeting and the ensuing discussion made for some light-hearted discussion. And yes, they will be looking into "fixing" the problem so it does not reoccur. Nice picture John. FNP (slow news day!)

DickD

Thanks, John, but you really didn't need to. Put me in the camp of I could care less.

User1

So Middletown has a software problem that overcharges residents. Towns response is to “refund” 3 cents to each resident. What about next year, or the year after? Saw nothing about rectifying the software issue other than “it’s too expensive”. And why pay for a “fix” to a faulty software program? Isn’t the vendor responsible for providing a flawless program? Isn’t providing updates part of the contract for the software? Really need to look at their contracting procedures! Don’t spend it all in one place!

DickD

User, read the article again. The cost of the software was to determine how much each individual was over charged. I am sure that the software will be fixed at no cost. Still, there's a good argument that the town could have made that the software over charge could have been done at no cost. .But why even bother.

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