- Published on Wednesday, 31 October 2012 16:21
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During the Colonial Beach Public Works committee meeting, Chairman Gary Seeber engaged in a heated debate with Monroe Point developer Johnathan Natelson over unpaid water bills. At one point during the meeting Seeber lost his patience when Natelson stated publicly that he was willing to settle the matter but Seeber said Natelson was not indicating a willingness to do so through their e-mail communications. Seeber then threatened to provide all communications to the press. Natelson’s responses changed and the matter was quickly closed.
Since July, Seeber has been involved in collecting unpaid water bills from Monroe Point developers.
In April of 2011 Colonial Beach Chief Financial Officer Joan Grant came to the council requesting direction.
Again at the September committee meetings, Monroe Point’s failure to comply brought the matter back to the table and the Committee threatened to cut off the water supply to the town homes until the debt was satisfied.
At the September meeting, Grant reported to Seeber that the town was having trouble collecting on back payments for water usage from Monroe Point developers.
In November of 2011 it was discovered that Monroe Point, located across from the Food Lion shopping center, had a separate connection for watering the lawns at the town homes.
Monroe Point gave the town an estimate for water usage which did not agree with the town’s research into the matter.
Monroe Point was given notice to either provide certified documentation proving their usage or change the meter on their sprinkler system.
Since the developers did not comply with either of these requests the town billed the company and charged them for regular usage, charging an average per unit.
Joan Grant reported that the overage was in debate and that she had not heard from Monroe Point.
The committee members agreed that a letter, composed by Seeber and signed by the council members, should be sent urging Monroe Point to pay the back water usage bill and warning them that failure to comply would result in disconnection.
Seeber ended by saying, “If they don’t pay the bill shut them off.”
At the October Public Works Committee meeting Seeber announced that Monroe Point still had an outstanding water bill.
One of the Monroe Point developers, John Natelson was present and told the committee that the reason it has not been paid was because there was some confusion concerning the charges on the bill. Natelson claimed that the bill contained a sewer connection fee that should not be there, the estimate was too high and that the bill was not itemized making it difficult for them to determine what they were being charged for.
Seeber admitted that the bill did contain a sewer connection fee in error, but contended that he had sent several emails to Monroe Point and the developers failed to respond.
A heated discussion ensued between Seeber and Natelson resulting at one point in Seeber threatening to share all the emails and documentation with the press.
While Natelson disagreed with Seeber on matters concerning e-mail communications, Seeber said, “You don’t want to do this!”
“You’re right I don’t want to do it and that’s why we made the proposal that we made,” Natelson began. “We said, look, the town checked the meter in 2011, checked the meter in 2012. According to that reading approximately 4000 gallons were used. We will agree to that number. We are not disputing that number, we think it’s a high number, but we will agree to it.”
Frustrated, Seeber asked, “Then why didn’t you respond to the e-mail I sent, saying that if you would send it to me, Val and Joan, that exact statement, we would have settled it and sent you a bill?”
Natelson claims he sent an email to that affect the next day but Seeber denies receiving that type of e-mail. The two argued for a couple of minutes disputing what was in the emails.
Natelson said, “This is a misunderstanding and all I’m trying to communicate to council is that our position is, we will pay the measured amount that was a one year measurement, and we will pay that for previous years so long as the sewer is excluded. And we just want someone to show us how it is calculated, that’s all.”
There was some discussion that the connection fee may have been for water and not sewer. Seeber said they would look into whether or not the water connection fee had been previously paid.
Seeber told Natelson they would send out a new bill without the sewer charges. “Joan will send out a bill for the water fees owed, interest, penalty and the full connection fee. And we will talk to her about finding where those numbers come from.
Natelson referred to a bill for $4,800 that was paid by Monroe Point. “By our calculation, unless we have to pay, and I thought this was fairly clear but obviously it wasn’t, unless we have to pay a sewer connection fee for a non-existent sewer connection, there isn’t going to be a whole lot of any of this for penalty or interest. And we’re happy to sit down and just work it out. It’s a simple matter.”
Seeber became frustrated and said, “You talk well and you talk often, about once a quarter when the bills come due. I have asked you for things that could have come back in a reasonable amount of time and in no instance to my memory have you done that.”
Natelson, adding fuel to the fire, answered “If that is your perception, I’m sorry, it’s a clearly a misunderstanding.”
At this point Seeber became upset and said that Natelson was being unprofessional by not returning emails or communicating.
Seeber then asked Natelson if he wanted him to go to the press.
Seeber said, “I can get all the emails and go to the press, and I can go to this lady that lives over there and if you want that in the press too I can get a copy of that e-mail and believe me you don’t want that in the press.”
At this point Natelson responded, “Gary I’m not here to argue, I’m here to say we want to just get this paid and put it behind us. We have had a lot of difficulty getting simple communication, at least that’s our experience.”
Seeber promised an itemized bill, instructed the town manager to review the bill, remove any sewer fees and determine if the connection fee was not paid in the last bill. Natelson said that was “fair enough.”
The discussions continued to rehash the timing of emails and what was said in them and Natelson continued to disagree causing Seeber to continue to get upset.
Finally, Budget Committee Chairman Mike Ham offered to help Grant go over the bill and work with Natelson to try to resolve the issue.
The meeting did end on an amusing note when Ham said, “We did some patch work on Cedar. I had a taxpayer corner me and said we fixed the cut in his street and it should have never been fixed, there’s higher priority stuff!”
The group shared a laugh and Foulds responded, “Mr. Ham, welcome to my world!”