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      Cities look to pay back residents for high winter water bills

      I n the past week , several northern Michigan communities have lifted their run water notices that were made this winter.

      T hey were issued to keep pipes from freezing. R esidents were told they would be partially reimbursed.

      N ow a lot of people are starting to get their water bills from the last few months and some of them are shocked to see what they are getting charged.

      S arah Testa got her water bill a few weeks ago from the City of East Jordan and was shocked when she saw what was due.

      "U sually it's $124 maybe a little less than that and it was $520 this time," Testa said.

      W hen she called the city , they offered her a $40 credit to her account, a standard that was set for all residents.

      "I didn't know how I was going to pay it, I never had a high water bill before," Testa said.

      T he city received dozens of complaints about the credit not being enough. O n Wednesday, they increased the amount for all accounts.

      "W hat we 've done now is gone back and recalculated a credit that will be $70 for those who used about the average," Chris Yonker, East Jordan City Manager said.

      O ther communities like Boyne City take a different approach to billing. They use software to calculate an average from the two previous years to come up with an amount.

      "T hey will not see anything different on their bil l ing they had a year ago," Michele Hewitt, Boyne City Deputy Treasurer said.

      T echnology like this makes things quicker , but is expensive and hasn't been adopted by all of our communities.

      A nd that has made for a municipal headache this spring , leaving many residents like Sarah Testa, unhappy.

      "I probably will talk to them at least on c e more , but if not I will have to make arrangements somehow to pay it," Testa said.

      B ut luckily for T esta , the city manager says he is willing to find a fair compromise on bills like hers.

      "W e will go back and try to average prior quarters to try to come up with a way to reimburse them ," Yonker said.

      T he City of East Jordan estimates that they will end up spending more than $70 thousand in credits from this winter's run water notices.