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Couple pays woman's $2,000 water bill

Published: Thursday, April 17, 2014 4:01 p.m. CDT

By Vinde Wells

Editor

A local couple’s generosity has solved an Oregon woman’s dilemma over an unusually high water bill.

Oregon City Clerk Charlene Ruthe said a couple came into the city hall Monday and paid Carol Long’s almost $2,000 water bill.

Ruthe said the couple, who lives in Oregon, asked that their names are not revealed.

“They want to remain anonymous,” Ruthe said. “They said they just didn’t think she [Long] should have to worry about her water bill.”

“I’m overwhelmed. I’m speechless,” Long said after she got the good news. “I’m in awe that someone would do this for me. I’m asking God to bless those people.”

In the last two months Long has received two bills totaling a whopping $1,955.14.

Her neighbor Rick Ryland addressed the city council April 8 and asked commissioners to reduce or forgive the bill, which was caused by a malfunctioning toilet.

The council postponed making a decision until the city attorney could get them more information about putting a lien on Long’s house, which is for sale.

Ryland told the council that Long, 84, lives in an average-sized house, and normally her water bill is $41.10 per month.

Long is trying to sell her house to move into a nursing home, Ryland said, and the problem began when her realtor, Mike Long, got a call from Ruthe who told him the water bill was unusually high.

A subsequent check of the house revealed that the flapper stuck open on the toilet in the basement, causing it to run continually.

When the bill arrived a week to 10 days later, the total due was approximately $1,500.

Soon after, Long went out of town, first visiting a daughter and then attending her son’s funeral, Ryland said. 

Then April bill arrived and Long found out she owed more than $400 in addition to the March bill.

Ryland said Long simply didn’t hear the toilet running because it is in the basement.

The running toilet used a total of 188,000 gallons of water.

Water & Sewer Commissioner Patrick Wiesner said the city’s policy has been to not make adjustments for leaks that aren’t the city’s fault. In this case, he said, the customer’s equipment failed.

Wiesner said Long’s service will not be shut off because of the bill. 

Mayor Tom Stone said Long should continue to pay her normal monthly amount until the council makes a decision.

He asked City Attorney Paul Chadwick to find out what would be involved in putting a lien on the property. The lien could then be paid off after the house is sold, he said.

“If we put a lien on the property she won’t have to worry about paying the bill,” Stone said at the meeting.

That’s all the moot point now, thanks to the kindness of Long’s benefactors.

However, Long said she hopes the city council will consider changing its policy about requiring property owners to pay for accidental leaks like this one.

In the meantime, she has some advice.

“I want to warn everyone if you go away from home for more than a couple of days, turn off the water to your house,” she said.

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