OAKLAND — The town of Oakland will repay a property owner $1,110 that it overcharged for sewage over a period of eight years.

The Town Council voted unanimously Wednesday evening to return the sum. The decision marks an exception to Oakland’s sewerage ordinance, which states that the town can abate charges only up to two billing quarters prior to the report of a problem. Abiding by the ordinance would have amounted to a refund of $100.

The 24 Center St. house had been billed as two units since 2011, when the current resident moved in. However, the property should have been classified as one unit from the outset. Town Manager Gary Bowman said he is unsure how the situation was assessed incorrectly. He was made aware of the issue Tuesday.

“I think what happened was — and I wasn’t here when this was originally set up — they thought his in-home business was an (additional) unit, which it wasn’t,” Bowman said. “That’s where the error took place.”

Going forward, the property will be charged as one unit, effective immediately.

Bowman said he thinks that both the homeowner, whose identity was withheld, and the town share responsibility for the mistake.

“The town can’t be held responsible that everything is correct,” he said. “The home or business owner should be accountable for knowing what they pay. But the bottom line is I feel as though we have to do what’s right on this, and that’s why I made the recommendation to the council (to override the ordinance).”

Councilman Dana Wrigley said that because the authority of the town carries weight, citizens typically do not question what the town bills them.

“Our people, when they get a bill from the town of Oakland, they pay it,” he said. “They feel they owe it, and they pay it.”

The town’s bills list the flat sewer rate an individual is being charged for but do not make it clear how many units contribute to that rate.

Although the council largely agreed with Bowman that the error stemmed from an oversight on both sides, all five of them thought that the town should pay the Center Street resident back.

“It’s easier to do the right thing, and I think the right thing to do is to give this gentleman back his money,” Chairman Mike Perkins said. “If he made a mistake and owed the town, we’d want our money.”

Town Clerk Jan Porter said the Center Street property owner now owes sewer bills to Oakland. The reimbursed money will be applied to his outstanding balance. Porter said that while this “pretty much cancels out what they owe,” the resident still would need to pay the town a “small sum” afterwards.

A similar case occurred several years ago involving a property on Heath Street. The Oakland resident, who was a town employee, had been billed the flat rate for one unit for years, but never had water or sewer lines in the building she owned. In that case, the town also agreed to act beyond the limits of its sewerage ordinance and refund the money it had overcharged.

Oakland’s quarterly sewer rate is $50 per unit, plus water consumption. Water consumption is metered by Aqua Maine Inc., a private water utility. Before 2015, the flat quarterly rate was $35 per unit. The town increased fees to cover losses it incurred after connecting to the Waterville sewer system in 2012.

Meg Robbins — 861-9239

[email protected]


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