SEBRING, Ohio (WYTV) – Sebring residents say they’re frustrated after some of their water bills have nearly doubled, but the village says the increase is out of its control.
“Our water bill continues to climb,” Kathy Thomas said. “Every quarter, it is climbing higher and higher.”
Customers are billed four times a year. Thomas said her water bill has nearly doubled since last quarter and she was never told why. Now she’s calling on other residents to sign a petition in order to get answers.
“They say they sent out letters but my frustration and confusion is when we had to boil the water and drink it. And when the lead scare came, they were putting letters on our doors every day,” Thomas said.
She has collected 100 signatures so far and is hoping to get 3,000.
“I never received a letter,” Thomas said. “Everybody who’s signed this so far has not seen a letter.”
The Village of Sebring Solicitor Gary VanBrocklin said they did send out letters and had several public meetings about the increase.
The village also provides water to Smith Township and the Village of Beloit, and it needed to borrow money to upgrade its water system.
“The ODWA — which is the controlling body — before they gave us a loan, required us to do a rate study to determine how much money it would take to make the water utility self-sustaining. That is under Ohio law. You can’t use other public funds to pay for the water utility,” VanBrocklin said.
Thomas said the other issue is having to pay a quarterly bill and when she asked to break it down monthly, she was told it wouldn’t work that way.
However, VanBrocklin said that’s not the case.
“We try and get folks to pay on a monthly basis or pay something on a monthly basis so they won’t get a large bill quarterly, however, that doesn’t always happen.”
Although Thomas is hoping the petition catches the attention of council, VanBrocklin said there’s not much it will do because they have to stay in compliance with the law.
He said he understands the frustration, though, especially during the pandemic.
“In this era of COVID-19 and everything, there’s a lot of financial difficulties that a lot of folks have and we’re sensitive to that and, obviously, we wouldn’t turn off their water even if we were permitted to in this situation.”