CORTLAND City council approves motion on water usage

Cortland lawmakers put a stop to unmetered water use.
CORTLAND -- Councilwoman Deidre Petrosky was wondering why some houses in the city had plush green yards while others have browned in summer's heat.
"They were getting the water for free," Petrosky said she found out.
"It was the exploitation of a loophole," explained Don Wittman, city service director.
It appears that city council has now plugged the leak.
At Monday's council meeting and at Petrosky's urging, lawmakers approved a motion requiring water meter installation within 30 days of the city making the water line tap-in at the curb.
The free water situation had developed, Wittman explained Tuesday, because there was no procedure outlined to determine when homeowners had to install a water meter, so that they could be charged.
Parade of Homes
The upscale houses were constructed by contractors for display during the Home Builders/Remodelers Association of the Mahoning Valley's Parade of Homes. The event began Friday and runs through Sunday.
"The parade has shown a loophole in our procedures," Wittman said.
The houses were constructed in the Walnut Run area along St. Andrews Boulevard, Dornoch and Gleneagle by developers. Wittman explained that the policy had been that when a structure is built, the city connected the water service line at the curb.
The city relied on the contractor to run the line from the curb to the house, and to notify the city when the meter needs installed so the owner can be billed.
"Most of the time it's not a problem," Wittman said.
Frustrating discovery
Terry Abrams, executive director of the builders' association, said he was unaware the parade houses weren't metered.
He said four of the seven houses were presold but can't be occupied until the event is completed. Three remain unsold.
Petrosky was joined by Councilman Brian Fischer, who said he was "miffed" by the lack of a metering policy.
"How are we giving away water? That bothers me," Fischer said Tuesday.
The owners had unlimited use of the water on the sodded yards, he noted.
Finance Director Frances Moyer, who is also in charge of water and sewer billings, said there is no way to accurately know how much water was used.
At best, she noted, the city may have to rely on estimated bills.

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