BARSTOW The City Council is slated to vote Monday on a resolution that will issue nearly $1 million in refunds for sewer rate overcharges as well as postpone the date the rate increase takes effect.

The city announced its plan to issue refunds at the Nov. 7 council meeting where City Manager Curt Mitchell explained the city found an error in the way they calculated rates resulting in overcharges to more than half of its commercial customers.

"We appreciate the patience our residential and commercial customers have had with us through this process," said Oliver Chi, assistant to the city manager. "We're looking forward to hopefully getting this issue corrected and to serve the waste water needs of the community in the most effective way possible."

Chi said after the city approved sewer rate increases, which took effect May 2011, they were approached by numerous businesses that asked the city to audit the sewer units calculations.

After reviewing each commercial account, city staff determined 254 accounts had overestimated water usage, 124 were underestimated, and 114 were appropriate.

The resolution will refund one year of excess charges to overestimated commercial accounts, totaling about $485,000. Those businesses affected already received a letter explaining their refund.

According to Chi, the average amount refunded to commercial customers is $1,879.84. Chi explained that while most businesses were refunded around $500, there were a few who were overcharged large amounts. He declined to state the size of the greatest refund due to a nondisclosure agreement with Golden State Water Company.

The resolution also postpones the implementation date for the sewer rate increases for both commercial and residential accounts to Dec. 1, 2011.

This includes refunding the sewer rate increase of $7 already collected from residential accounts from May to November. Each residence will be refunded $49 each, costing the city nearly $450,000.

The city hosted several town hall meetings last week to get public input on the issue but had little turnout.

"There wasn't very much of a response and we didn't receive much feedback," Chi said. "Hopefully foks understood what was happening and why we were doing this."

If the council approves the resolution, Chi said the refunds will be issued the first week of December.


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