At the March 2 city meeting Carrabelle commissioners and staff told water and sewer customers to take responsibility for water usage and shut the water off if leaving home for a prolonged period.

Three Carrabelle property holders appeared before city commissioners to ask for relief from high water bills and were told help with the problem was limited.

Trish Mesick said she believed her high water use, 27,000 gallons in a month, was due to a faulty meter and said the problem was resolved when a new meter was installed.

City Clerk Keisha Messer disagreed. She said the city had changed out the head of Mesick’s meter but not the meter itself, and water use readings were back to normal.

Mesick said she had looked everywhere and found no indication of a leak. “If I had used this much water I’d have waterfront property,” she said.

Water and Sewer Clerk Renee Brannan said the city could send the meter off to be tested, but if it was not found to be faulty Mesick would be charged an additional $150 for the test. Brannan said she had never seen such a test benefit the customer.

Next, Al Smythe appeared on behalf of his mother, Donna Hahn, who had received a $1,000 bill for 88,000 gallons of water. About $200 of that was the fee for sewer use.

Smythe said Hahn’s high water use was the result of a faulty plastic toilet fitting that failed while his parents, who reside only part time in Carrabelle, were out of town.

He said the water had done substantial damage to his parent’s house and it seemed unfair that they should also be charged for the leaked water.

Mayor Brenda La Paz said she had received, on two occasions, large water bills due to leaks and had developed the habit of shutting her water off at the main, sometimes even if she only planned to leave for the day.

Pastor Robert Davis of the Carrabelle Love Center also asked for a water bill at the church to be forgiven. Davis, who resides in Apalachicola, said he had received a call from the city in January warning him that the church had used 72,000 gallons of water over the previous month. By March usage had risen to 173,000 gallons of water at a cost of about $1,700, he said. Brannan said about $350 of this is the sewage charge and will be removed from the invoice.

Davis said the water had leaked from an old building on the rear of the church property, and he had not seen the leak because the water had run out of the back of the building. He suggested that coyotes frequenting the property may have damaged the pipes.

Davis said the Carrabelle Love Center is a small church and most of the congregation is elderly and on fixed incomes.

Because Mesick, who lives on County Road 67, does not have city sewage, she will be responsible for her entire $233 water bill. Smythe and Davis were all told that the sewer portion of their bills would be forgiven, but they were still responsible for water usage in accordance with established city policy.

Messer said Brannan would be happy to work out an affordable payment plan.

City staff and commissioners urged all water customers to shut off their water at the main if they plan to be away from home for an extended time.