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.