Imagine the surprise of Maria Gonzales when she opened her city bill and saw that she owed over $3,000 for water consumption. Now imagine her surprise when, after being reduced to around $2,000, someone else paid off the entire remaining amount on the bill.
Maybe there are good people out there after all.
The ordeal started when Gonzales received a bill that stated her household used over 250,000 gallons of water the previous month, and the meter was still ticking.
The city arrived at this conclusion when its workers noticed her usage amount. They went to her home and saw that excessive water was not showing up in the surrounding storm or sewer drains, so they determined there was a leak.
They found it in an old broken faucet outside of the house.
Gonzales had the leak fixed and the city recalculated the bill, subtracting the sewer amount. The council knocked off $1,000, but that still left her with a debt of $2,056.70.
She told the city it was still too much and she could not afford to pay it. Gonzales went before the city council, Sept. 3, and requested that it waive all but $1,000, which she told them she would gladly pay.
"I work all day and didn't notice something was wrong - that there was a leak," she told the council. "I did not notice the water in the back yard."
Mayor Chad Thomas told Gonzales, who owns and operates the Acapulco Mexican Bakery in West Liberty, that traditionally the city has never waived the amount a homeowner must pay when there is leak involved.
"The water is getting used - it's flowing through," Thomas said. "It would not be outside our normal policy to say that the homeowner is responsible for what gets used."
Gonzales responded that, had she known about the leak, she would have gotten it fixed right away. However, due to the type of leak she was not aware of the water usage.
Council member Ethan Anderson said he understood that there was a precedent, but felt the city could waive at least 10 percent.
"It was accidental, unintentional usage," he said. "Not that we should be giving water away, but we could cut her little a bit. It's definitely something I would want if it were to happen to me."
However, the council disagreed and stated that the action would change the criteria in which a person is held responsible for paying his or her bill. They simply couldn't set up an unfair standard.
Therefore, the city decided that Gonzales should pay the $2056.70, and advised her to go to the city hall the next day and set up payment arrangements.
But before Gonzales could do that she received a pleasant surprise.
When she got home the next day her son was holding a card in his hand, and as she read it she broke out in tears. Someone had paid the water bill in full for her.
"I cried because I couldn't believe someone would do that," Gonzales said. "But you know I thought maybe it's not true because it's so much money."
She called the city the next day and it confirmed that the bill was paid. However, they did not know exactly who did it.
According to the city the person, or persons, remained anonymous when paying the bill.
"I know there are good and nice people out there," Gonzales said. "I say God thank you, thank you for this."
Woman’s debt paid in fullMary Atkinson · Wednesday, September 25, 2013