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Call Kurtis Investigates: Water District Halts Standby Fees, For Now

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Eight-time Emmy Award winner Kurtis Ming is CBS13's consumer...
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A Call Kurtis investigation exposes fees that some experts say are illegal in the Rio Linda Elverta Community Water District.

After reporting on the controversial fees last week, Kurtis is here with why the district has chosen to stop charging them for now.

We’re talking about standby fees, ranging from $62 to $782 every other month for water, these residents can’t even use.

Tonight we’re learning this agency, that has been accused of mismanagement in a grand jury report, may have started charging these fees illegally.

“They’re not following procedures. They’re going to have to turn around and do this thing properly and fairly,” said Chris Kapic, Rio Linda homeowner.

Chris is relieved to know for now, the Rio Linda/Elverta Community Water District will not charge him $99.20 every two months for a water line he disconnected when he got a well.

“I’m not going to pay for something I’m not getting,” said Chris.

Our investigation uncovered the water district may not have followed legal protocol, under required under Prop 218, before billing 125 customers what they call a “standby fee” for water they can’t even access.

“You can see, there’s no pipe there,” said Joel Diones, Rio Linda homeowner.

Joel and the others started getting billed for their inactive meters in November after the water district voted on the new fee to help pay off some loans.

“They didn’t take any steps. They just passed the resolution and sent out bills,” said Tim Bittle, Director of Legal Affairs, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

Attorney Bittle says California’s Constitution requires agencies to give “written notice by mail” of the proposed fee….And a “ballot” should be included…allowing property owners to vote…Then a “public hearing” should be held within “45 days.”

“In this case, there was no election at all. There was just a unilateral resolution by the board, that they’re going to start charging this,” said Bittle.

Mary Henrici, the water district’s general manager, confirms no public vote or hearing on this standby fee was ever held and agreed to stop billing customers for now.

“That’s what my legal counsel is looking into at this time,” said Henrici.

And if this fee is put to a vote?

“I’m still on my own here with my well.. so I would vote no,” said Chris.

The board members are scheduled to talk about this fee again at next month’s board meeting.

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