The board voted last week to refund a $100 water reconnection charge to 166 accounts after Ed Billeci, founder of the Mountain House Rate Payers Association, pointed out that the district failed to notify residents about the reconnection fee on shutoff notices, as required by law. Residents are now aware of the fee, said Mountain House general manager Paul Sensibaugh.
Sensibaugh said Billeci went to him with several complaints, alleging that the district unlawfully overcharged for water deposits and late charges, but the district plans to take no action on any other issues.
Billeci claims that some residents might be paying up to $900 in water deposits, which he says is illegal. According to three separate Mountain House ordinances, if water is shut off for nonpayment, a $300 deposit is required for reconnection. If an account is delinquent for two months in a 12-month period, a $300 deposit is required to continue service. Mountain House also requires tenants to pay a $300 deposit to open an account, and the board has considered charging an initial deposit to all accounts.
California state law says a utility deposit may not exceed twice the average bill, which Sensibaugh said is about $150. He said the Mountain House deposits are perfectly legal. The district sent a letter to residents last month to clarify water-billing information after new laws were adopted at the end of 2009.
Billeci said he founded the rate-payers group in December to give balance to the governing board and give community members a voice.
“Maybe, as a group of citizens, we have a difference of opinion (from the board),” he said.
He said he hopes the group will make people aware of what is going on in the community. The Mountain House Rate Payers Association has about 50 members, and Billeci said most residents who know about the group join in.
Any Mountain House resident can join. There is no fee, and membership is anonymous.
Contact Tracy Press reporter Jaclyn Hirsch at 830-4269 or firstname.lastname@example.org.