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Monroe Point Developers were overcharged almost $10,000

After almost a year long battle with town officials, Monroe Point developer Johnathan Natelson can put utility bills to rest. Budget Committee Chairman Mike Ham announced last Thursday that the town’s bill to Monroe Point for water usage was almost ten grand over the amount due.

The bill has been in question for over a year but several circumstances have made it difficult for town officials to correctly bill Monroe Point. Dispute over a water meter’s accuracy, untimely email responses and a lack of communication have all added to the problem.

After a heated meeting with Public Works Committee Chairman Gary Seeber in October, frustrated Natelson said outside the meeting room that he estimated that Monroe Point was being overcharged for water fees by about ten grand.

“All I want to do is get this cleared up and pay the bill,” Natelson said as he left the October meeting.

During the October Public Works committee meeting, Chairman Seeber engaged in a heated debate with Monroe Point Developer Johnathan Natelson, over unpaid water bills. At one point during the meeting Seeber lost his patience when Natelson stated publicly, that he was willing to settle the matter, but Seeber stated Natelson was not indicating a willingness to do so through their email communications. Seeber even threatened to provide all communications to the press.

It was discovered in Nov. 2011 that Monroe Point, located across from the Food Lion shopping center, had a separate connection for watering the lawns at the town homes.

Monroe point gave the town an estimate for water usage which did not agree with the town’s research into the matter.

Monroe Point was given notice to either provide certified documentation proving their usage or change the meter on their sprinkler system.

Since the developers did not comply with either of these requests the town billed the company and charged them for regular usage, charging an average per unit.

Since July, Seeber has been involved in collecting unpaid water bills from Monroe Point developers after  Colonial Beach Chief Financial Officer Joan Grant came to the council requesting direction in April.

At the September committee meetings, Monroe Point’s failure to comply brought the matter back to the table and the committee threatened to cut off water supply to the town homes until the debt was satisfied. Grant reported to Chairman Seeber that the town was having trouble collecting on back payments for water usage from Monroe Point developers. Grant also reported that the overage was in debate, but that she had not heard from Monroe Point.

The committee members agreed that a letter, composed by Seeber and signed by all the council members, should be sent, urging Monroe Point to pay the back water usage bill and warning them that failure to comply would result in disconnection.

Seeber ended the September meeting by saying, “If they don’t pay the bill, shut them off.”

In the October Public Works Committee meeting Seeber announced that Monroe Point still had an outstanding water bill.

Natelson was present and told the committee that the reason it has not been paid was because there was some confusion concerning the charges on the bill. Natelson claimed that the bill contained a sewer connection fee that should not be there, the estimate was too high and that the bill was not itemized making it difficult for them to determine what they were being charged for.

Seeber admitted that the bill did contain a sewer connection fee in error, but contended that he had sent several emails to Monroe Point and the developers failed to respond.

Budget Committee Chairman Mike Ham offered to go over the bills with Natelson and Grant to try to clear up the confusion.

At the committee meetings last week, Ham reported he had met with representatives from Monroe Point and gone over the previous bills. Ham estimates that Monroe Point had in fact been over charged by $9,953 dollars. This figure coincides with Natleson’s estimate of $10,000.

Ham estimates Monroe Point owes $1,110 for the third quarter in 2012. Ham said he spoke with the developers the day of the meeting and encouraged them to pay that amount. Ham said the town still needs to charge for the water tap fee, which Ham said, back in 2007 when the water was hooked up was $2000.
When Monroe Point applied for permits to start building they struck a deal with the town to have tap fees reduced by one third. Ham said that leaves a tap fee of $1,380 outstanding which the town will bill Monroe Point for.

Ham hopes to have this issue resolved before the January bill which will include water fees for the third quarter.

Linda Farneth

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