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Call Kurtis Investigates: Customers Forced To Pay For Standby Water, Even If They Don’t Use It

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Eight-time Emmy Award winner Kurtis Ming is CBS13's consumer...
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More than a hundred customers in Rio Linda and Elverta are not happy they’re now getting billed for water they don’t use. Some of them called Kurtis to investigate.

They’re being billed for water they can’t even access right now, $62 to $782 every two months.

“It’s unfair, it’s totally unfair,” said Chris Kapic, Rio Linda resident.

Chris just found out he’s going to have to pay $99.20 every other month for water he doesn’t use.

He put in a well on his property four years ago.

No longer needing water from the Rio Linda/Elverta Water District, he had his meter shut off.

Joel Diones also had a meter on his property shut off.

“You can see, there’s no pipe there,” said Joel.

But he’s now also facing the $99.20 charge.

In fact, 125 water district customers with deactivated meters are being billed these bi-monthly fees called standby fees ranging from $62 to $782 based on the size of their meter.

The reason? Just in case they want their water turned on again.

“It’s crazy because you can’t pay for something you don’t get,” said Joel.

Facing millions in unpaid loans for upgrades, including a new well, the financially strapped water board voted for the new charges in September.

Joel and Chris voiced their objections at last month’s meeting.

“I’m not using your services. I don’t mind paying for water protection but this is absolutely ridiculous,” Chris told the board.

And then there’s this… the district’s well documented mismanagement in a 2011 grand jury report.

The report pointed out “internal conflicts among staff”… a bookkeeper “charged thousands of dollars of personal expenses” on a district credit card…. and “continual turnover in general managers…”

Mary Henrici, the district’s ninth general manager in five years, insists there’s no connection between the agency’s troubled past and the new standby charges.

“This mismanagement of money has nothing to do with paying our loan that is going to be due,” said Henrici.

In fact, she says a $19 surcharge from every customer was supposed to cover the cost of their loans, but foreclosures and vacant properties contributed to the shortfall.

“It’s not an unheard of practice to charge people to have the water available, because we need to pay for all the services to make that water available,” said Henrici.

We’ve confirmed other water districts also charge customers standby fees for water they don’t use but the district confirms, their new standby charges are much higher than most.

These customers insist it’s a bill they shouldn’t have to pay.

“It’s just not right, I don’t think it’s right,” said Joel.

“I’m not going to pay for something that I’m not getting, that’s the bottom line,” said Chris.

These new fees include a $19 surcharge these customers weren’t paying before.

The district says everyone who lives in the district should be paying these fees anyway.

Four of the five board members have changed since these standby fees were approved in September.

They plan to discuss reducing these charges during Monday’s board meeting on Jan. 14th.

If customers don’t pay this standby fee, the water district says they’ll put a lien on their property.

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