The meter doesn’t lie.
That’s what most utility companies well tell you when it comes to water meters. They are too simple to fail. Water flows in. The meter spins.
Here’s a look at a typical meter I found at www.FlowMeterDirectory.com.
Want to check it? Turn off all the water in your house. Watch the meter. If it stops, it’s working. If it keeps spinning, you have a leak.
If you still think you’ve been billed for too much water and you are convinced you don’t have a leak, they will tell you there must be a thief hooking up a hose to your faucet and stealing water.
Actually, that was the subject of an earlier Side Streets. It happens more than you might think.
But in this case we’re talking about a meter at the Cimarron Hills Townhouse complex on the eastern edge of Colorado Springs in an unincorporated area north of the airport.
It is served by the Cherokee Metro District.
Folks there on the homeowners association were shocked when they got the bill for May. It was $10,000 above normal.
And it wasn’t because someone’s bathtub overflowed. The meter wasn’t attached to a living space.
The 90-unit complex has 16 buildings, including a clubhouse.
And it has 16 water meters.
For May, the clubhouse meter showed the massive amount of water usage. Enough to fill the complex swimming pool 10 times. The only problem, the pool has been closed three years.
Typically, the clubhouse doesn’t use much water.
However, it does have an irrigation system attached to it and it has been known to leak.
But HOA official Janet Shelinbarger insists the leaky sprinkler heads are on other meters. Not the clubhouse.
Cherokee general Manager Sean Chambers said the townhouse HOA folks are confused. The meters and their remote transmitters are new — installed in 2009.
His crews have checked and double-checked the meter and transmitter in question. Both are working properly, he said.
Chambers also points out the history of the Cimarron Hills sprinklers.
In May, the billing period in question, Cherokee crews twice responded to reports of “water main breaks” at the townhouse complex.
Both times, his crews found sprinklers leaking and gushing water.
I talked to Mark Cuchiara, a Cherokee water foreman who responded to reports. He told me it looked like a river running down the curb and gutter into Cree Drive.
He found the leaking sprinkler and went to the shutoff at the backflow valve and turned the water off.
Shelinbarger knows the sprinklers have leaked. But she insists the leaky heads are on different meters than the clubhouse. The HOA only paid a fraction of the bill and Cherokee threatened to turn off the water to the clubhouse.
The HOA filed a temporary restraining order against Cherokee. The order has expired and Cherokee is still threatening to shut off the water.
Chambers said it is not fair to the districts other water uses to force them to subsidize Cimarron Hills’ leaky sprinkler system. He said the district is willing to take payment installments spread over several months. And it is only charging for actual costs incurred in producing and delivering the water.
I’m guessing this one ends up back in court.