Stormwater Enterprise billing boo-boos hit home for councilman
Think City Council members don't know what it's like to be “the little guy”?
Tell that to Scott Hente.
The council member, whose District 1 includes Pleasant Valley and the northern Westside, revealed at the Jan. 22 council meeting that the 1-year-old City Stormwater Enterprise (SWENT) had made numerous errors on his bill payment in 2007.
As a property developer, he has “50 or 60” separate bills to pay, so “I coordinated with people on staff and found out months later that those bills were applied incorrectly,” Hente told SWENT Director Ken Sampley at the meeting. “It affected one client's closing.”
Sampley did not deny “we have had issues in the past” while developing a billing system, but he and a staff member told council the problems have been identified and are being corrected.
Hente encouraged any such improvements, adding the story of a constituent who had paid the correct amount, then got a reminder letter from SWENT for $1.01 he didn't owe. The councilman wondered how many “other individuals out there” have also been mistakenly billed. “It's frustrating,” he said.
SWENT, which started in 2007 after being created by council, charges city property owners quarterly fees based on their estimated amounts of storm runoff. Payments go into a fund to pay for new or upgraded public drainage-control structures around the city.
“Let's be honest,” Hente said. “We're dealing with an enterprise that at the very least is controversial [some citizens believing SWENT is the equivalent of a new tax and should have been put to a public vote] and has gotten some discussion going on with the community… This is not helping our public relations as we try to convince people this is the right thing to do.”
A decision had already been made to stop sending out reminder letters, according to a SWENT staff statement at the City Council meeting.
Westside Pioneer article