An Allens Point Road resident will have to find another way to pay his astronomical water bill of $72,227.62 after the Marion Board of Selectmen voted to deny the resident’s abatement request. The decision was made during a special meeting with the Selectmen and members of the Department of Public Works on Thursday morning.
“In no way was this an easy thing to do,” said Selectman Jonathan Henry. “I really feel for the guy.”
Homeowner Nicholas Grace, who is also a member of the Affordable Housing Trust, made the abatement request in early November. The bill was so excessively high due to a crack in a water pipe and the location of the water meter on his property.
Instead of keeping the meter inside of his house, Grace keeps it in a five foot ditch about 150 yards from his house. The ditch was submerged with water causing the meter to malfunction during the reading.
“I’m still in shock of the bill,” said Selectman Stephen Cushing. “I’m having a hard time putting myself in that spot. It’s a staggering amount.”
Cushing initially proposed the town paying for half of the total bill amount, which would have been $36,616.02. However, Henry and Selectman Jody Dickerson did not vote in favor of the that proposition.
Department of Public Works Superintendent Rob Zora believes this whole situation could have been prevented.
“You shouldn’t have had that water in the pit,” said Zora. “That should have been a red flag.”
Furthermore, Zora and DPW Administrative Assistant Rebecca Carvalho confirmed that they sent Grace two letters regarding the location of the meter in the pit, but no action was ever taken to remove it.
“The pit has always been an issue,” said Carvalho. “We’ve been a little bit concerned that this is going to keep happening.”
Prior to the meeting, Town Administrator Paul Dawson reached out to Wareham and Mattapoisett to see how if and how they handled similar situations in the past. Both towns said they had never seen a bill higher than a few thousand dollars.
“In my experience, I have never had an amount like this,” he said.
“We’re treading in unknown territory, so to speak,” said Cushing.
While there are no specific rules regarding these types of situations, especially with a bill of this caliber, Zora said if the water passes through the meter, it is the homeowner’s responsibility to pay the bill.
Zora also wondered how other residents, who have applied for much smaller abatements in the past but were denied, would feel if a bill of this magnitude was abated.
The Selectmen did not offer any other abatement amounts during the meeting. Grace will have the opportunity to appeal the decision in District Court if he chooses to do so.
By Katy Fitzpatrick