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System constipation leads to big charge in city's bill


Timing is everything, even when it involves a bill between two cities.

A billing issue followed a lengthy discussion among Grand Coulee’s city council members last week as they tried to come to grips with a contract agreement between the city and its employees.

The last offer employees had made for their contract would cost the city some $17,000. The council discussed where the city was going to find the money to meet the employees’ offer. It lasted about an hour and was pushed off to the next council meeting in March.

That’s when the council faced a dispute over a wastewater billing issue with Electric City, which objected to a bill for about $5,000.

Yes, timing is everything.

Grand Coulee’s council had had enough of dealing with problems and quickly denied Electric City’s request for an adjustment on its wastewater bill.

The billing dispute over wastewater processing Grand Coulee does for Electric City had to do with a “spike” in the meter reading reading for October 2016.

That spike showed that Electric City had nearly twice as much sewage flow through the system as usual — 105,500 gallons a day, compared to a regular day of about 63,000 gallons.

Electric City Councilmember Birdie Hensley had appeared before Grand Coulee’s council a month earlier to ask for some adjustment in the bill.

She said at the time that she didn’t want to place blame anywhere, but wanted the council to review the matter.

Grand Coulee City Clerk Carol Boyce went back several years to show that the average flow for the month of October over the years 2010 through 2015 was 44.591 percent of the 2016 total.

On October 19, 2016, it showed that Electric City used 101.25 percent of the total flow, meaning that Grand Coulee had no sewer flow that day.

The flow meter is located at North Dam Park, where the sewer system enters the city of Grand Coulee.

Apparently, Electric City claims, the sewer line was plugged and backed up for a number of days before the system broke free.

The agreement between the two cities, which is owned jointly, states, “In the event of the meter malfunctioning the wastewater treatment operator shall estimate the sewage flow in order to determine the applicable wastewater treatment and disposal charges.”

That was done by the plant operator, Gary Abbott, who stated that the blockage resulted in a 63.2-percent average flow for Electric City when it should have been in the 38-42 percent range.

Electric City’s city clerk said that her city will pursue the billing problem with Grand Coulee again.

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