University overcharged by city for water bill

Brandon Arcari, Assistant Breaking News Editor

The city of Burlington overcharged UVM for water expenses for over 10 years, costing UVM over 2 million dollars.

The Public Works Department estimates that UVM paid the city an extra $15,000 in monthly water expenses for University Heights North and South since 2006, according to a report from Chapin Spencer, director of Public Works, and Meghan Moir, assistant director for water resources.

“I think it has to be a shock for anyone to come across, 2 million dollars is not a small number and it makes you wonder if there is anything else that is being overlooked,” sophomore Will Kelleher said.

Public Works became aware of the issue when UVM asked them to review a compound water meter — which measures the water for a large business or a residential hall — in University Heights South. UVM asked for the review when the Physical Plant noticed that the complex charges had differed from their normal amount.

“I feel bad for everyone who had to overpay for housing at UHeights since its creation,” sophomore Liz Chambers said.

The department found that the city water billing system had been tracking the incorrect measurement readings from the water meter, leading to the amount of water used being measured incorrectly.

Joe Speidel, the director of local government and community relations, told WCAX that his department had previously assumed the university’s water bills had increased in 2006 simply because the University Heights residence halls both opened that year.

“We didn’t really notice such a small increase since we were expecting some kind of increase when we had that new facility up and running,” Speidel said.

The city of Burlington hired auditing firm Klynveld Peat Marwick Goerdeler to examine other water meters regarding the same issue for a cost of $63,250, to check for other billing issues, according to a press release Jan. 18.  KPMG found 17 other issues where customers had been incorrectly charged, according to Public Works Director Chapin Spencer in a presentation to the City Council.

This incident comes only a few years after UVM was overcharged for over $350,000 in 2014 by Burlington Electric due to a faulty calculation in the shared space with the ECHO Center and the Rubenstein Ecosystem Science lab.