Sometimes you can fight City Hall – and win.
Just ask Nawatha Reed who prevailed over her protest against the city over a high water bill that she insists was made in error.
In June Reed appeared before the Ceres City Council to protest her March water bill being $405.45 which normally runs $150. Reed accessed her water account through the city’s web portal around April 12 and was shocked when she saw that she was being charged for 43,916 gallons of water usage for March. The excessive water usage was alleged to have taken place between March 12 and March 21. She was out of town for five of those 12 days.
Reed told the city there was “no way I used that much water.” In response the city told her that the water meters are within accurate 98.3 percent of the time.
Reed, who is 81 and lives alone, explained that she waters her lawn only once a week and does laundry every other week. No areas of her lot appeared wet or soggy however the city hinted the problem may have been with her in-ground pool. Reed was told the high usage could be related to a pool overflow system with the water going straight into the sewer system. She consulted with her pool company and was told there is no such system on her pool.
After Reed called to complain to City Hall prior to the meeting, city crews replaced her water meter and tested it to show that it “passed with flying colors,” said Sam Royal, acting director of Public Works.
Reed also scoffed at Royal’s suggestion that a faucet could have been left on for days.
As a result of the stalemate, Reed took the city to Small Claims Court in Turlock seeking $250 plus $45 in court fees.
“I feel bad that it had to get to that point because they wouldn’t even consider lowering my bill,” said Reed. “I don’t like doing things like that. It takes me a lot to get me upset – and they did.”
The judge ruled in her favor, saying Reed made a strong case that she didn’t use as much water as the city insists that she did. Thinking the matter was over, she became alarmed to see her name appear on the Closed Session docket of the Oct. 10 City Council meeting. After inquiring with Councilman James Casey, Reed was told that the city intended to file an appeal of the decision but the council voted to pay the amount instead.
After Reed received a notice to appear in court for the appeal, she checked and learned that the city manager was supposed to call the court and rescind the appeal.