Imagine getting a $4,600 water bill.
That’s what happened to Kate and David McCarron, homeowners on High Ridge Road in Gearhart. The McCarrons sent a request for a reduction to the City Council after receiving water bills of $875 and nearly $3,800.
“I thought the tax assessor had sent me an early tax bill,” David McCarron, a physician practicing in Portland, said. “I was shocked. And I continue to be shocked.”
The McCarrons have owned their Gearhart home for 23 years, but had not been to the house since early last fall. “Our water bills of record have been predictably modest and remarkably consistent over the years,” they wrote city councilors.
On a Sunday morning in February, the McCarrons received a call from one of their neighbors in the Highlands section of Gearhart who told them “in somewhat excited terms a water geyser was erupting in our driveway.”
The McCarrons said they immediately contacted their property manager, Tom Thies, who represented the couple at Wednesday’s City Council meeting. Thies showed up within minutes, they wrote. The water valve at the street that controlled the pipe to the house was turned, but not before the pipe had ruptured almost 20 feet before entry into the house.
While they considered the first water bill a “blip,” the meter reading in February was “essentially off the charts.”
The couple brought their case to the City Council for relief, and received the maximum available — $1,839. But they were still left with the remainder of almost $2,900.
They sought further relief after paying to have the water line fixed, City Administrator Chad Sweet said.
“If you do choose to have a reduction, I wouldn’t have an issue with what you chose,” Sweet told councilors.
A 1-inch pinhole leak at 72 pounds per square inch can spill 30,000 gallons in two months. “Water doesn’t stop,” Sweet said. “This was a 3/4-inch pipe that was going for a period of time.”
The cost to the city was minimal.
“I would feel different if it had been dealt with after the first water bill,” City Councilor Dan Jesse said. “But the fact that they let it go to the second water bill … the fact that he acknowledged there was a ‘blip’ and didn’t do anything about it indicated he was aware of it.”
“It can happen, and this happened in excess to them, and I’d like to just give them their regular bill,” Councilor Sue Lorain said.
After discussion, the City Council unanimously agreed to reduce the bill a further $2,000, leaving the remaining $875 for the McCarrons to pay.
McCarron said he appreciated the reduction and plans to pay the adjusted amount. “I should have looked at that bill and gasped also,” he said. “It’s a human story. It could happen to them.”
The lesson? If you see a blip, don’t let it drip.