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Water leak leaves costly lesson in Spiceland

By DARREL RADFORD - dradford@thecouriertimes.com

Water, perhaps the most valuable resource on Earth, can also be one tough teacher, as one Spiceland senior citizen discovered recently.

Spiceland Town Council members sympathized with a local resident Wednesday who became stuck with successive water bills topping $1,300 per month and said they would work with him to make payments more bearable. But all agreed the bill, stemming from a leak on the man’s property, must be paid.

It was a costly, but important lesson.

Town Council President Darrin Jacobs said officials had informed him previously that there might be a leak on his property. But the resident said he didn’t contact anyone for a couple of months after that. Being elderly and having a heart condition, he was afraid to go under his manufactured home without help to see for himself.

“I didn’t catch it,” he said. “I couldn’t hear it under the house.”

The man said South Henry Regional Waste District officials had adjusted his bill for sewage to what he normally averages.

But Jacobs, while sympathetic, said this was different.

“We do purchase part of our water from New Castle,” Jacobs explained, “so we’re paying for the water. It’s not like it’s something that doesn’t have a cost. In the past, the precedent this council has set is we don’t write these things off. We have worked with people to set up payment options so it’s not a huge hit to residents. The way we look at it is that water has been used, even though it may have gone on the ground.”

Utility Supt. Jeff Lane said he and office personnel try to inform citizens immediately if they suspect a leak.

“When I read the meters, it tells who is having a possible leak and Dawn (Mogg, Spiceland clerk-treasurer) contacts folks right then,” Lane said.

Mogg said she already talked with the man’s daughter and is working out an easier payment to take care of the excess water usage.

Jacobs and town council member Scott Fitch emphasized if anyone suspects a water leak or is contacted by the town office because of a suspected problem, quick action is a must. They urge people to seek help right away so water bills can be contained. 

“We have to be fair to everybody,” board member Pam Stigall emphasized. “We have to treat everybody equally.”

The resident was extremely gracious at the meeting, in spite of the high water bills he was facing. He thanked council members for their counsel before leaving the meeting.

In other matters at Wednesday’s meeting:

• Council learned Saturday’s holiday event featuring Santa was “a great success” in spite of the weather. More than 50 kids attended.

• Spiceland Fire Chief Scott Teague’s request to use $4,000 out of a department fund to help equip a new truck coming next month was unanimously approved.

• Council heard Utility Supt. Jeff Lane report that the town is “salt ready and tire ready” for winter weather. Lane also said a recent inspection of the town water tower revealed no immediate problems but said it “will need attention in the next five or 10 years.”