If parents and teachers are looking for a lesson in honesty and transparency to show children, they need to look no further than what took place at a meeting of the Middletown burgess and commissioners the other night.
At Monday night’s session, the town’s commissioners approved a whopping 36-cent rebate to each of the town’s
water customers after it was discovered that a billing system
error had overcharged them an extra 1 to 3 cents per quarter for several years.
The mistake had been brought to the town’s attention in July by an eagle-eyed resident who noticed that a recent bill had asked her to pay 2 cents more than it should have. Apparently, the town’s billing system was adding an extra half-cent to customers’ bills when the bill ended in an odd number.
The glitch has been fixed, but there was the small matter of the extra few hundred dollars the town erroneously collected. That’s what prompted the refund talk.
The question a lot of us might ask is, “So what?” Over the course of a few years, a penny here or a penny there doesn’t really matter, right? The thought may run contrary to Ben Franklin’s “A penny saved is a penny earned” notion, but we can count the number of times we’ve walked past a penny laying on the ground without picking it up.
But Middletown’s decision isn’t about money. It’s not about the $616.32 in total that the town had to refund its residents. It’s not even about trying to respond to that initial complaint about being overcharged. It’s about doing the right thing. In one small action, the town’s commissioners showed that even the smallest mistakes should be addressed.
Over the years, we’ve seen plenty of mistakes, some of them ones we’ve made ourselves. But we’ve always subscribed to the notion that a person should not be judged on their errors as much as how they respond to them. In this case, Middletown’s commissioners responded by trying to do what’s right, even if the stakes weren’t that high and — likely — not many people were even paying attention.
From what we can tell, no one was knocking on the town’s door demanding their handful of coins be returned. In fact, Burgess John Miller told our reporter this week that when he mentions the situation to others, they are surprised that the commissioners are going to these lengths to return such a pittance.
Town Commissioner Chris Goodman said it more succinctly. “In the end, we’re doing what’s right,” he said.
We couldn’t agree more. We could all learn something from their actions.