Property owner stages protest

An Elkins resident staged a protest over a water bill Friday afternoon on the steps of Elkins City Hall, prompting city officials to schedule a meeting with him on the issue.

Mark Cross, who owns a townhouse apartments unit, said he was overbilled for water service for the apartments, and is having difficulty resolving the issue with the Elkins Water Department.

“On Nov. 13, the City of Elkins came and turned on four of the water meters for the apartments I own on Goff Street,” Cross said. “But evidently, the person who turned them on only filed the paperwork for three.

“On Feb. 4, I leased out the apartment, and on May 31, I received a bill for all of those months for the one unit, totaling $1,400.”

Cross said he went to the city to explain the amount of the bill could not be correct.

“I came down and talked to them (at City Hall) and explained the tenant has only been there since Feb. 4 and the bill was not correct,” Cross said. “I will pay what I owe. You say the tenant owes $1,400, but the units consistently use $60 per month for water.”

Cross said his next step was to contact Mayor Van Broughton.

“He promised he would put Bob Pingley, operations manager, on it,” Cross said. “Broughton said they would put a hold on the account, refrain from adding late fees and not disconnect the water until the issue was resolved.”

A week went by and Cross left town for the weekend.

“When I returned, I checked on my tenant and he said he had been without water for five days,” Cross said.

“Immediately, I called Broughton, Pingley and the city, but could not get anyone to give me a straight answer. Finally on Wednesday, Pingley recommended that I contact the state Public Service District to file an informal complaint so they can help us resolve the issue and decide what the bill should be.”

Cross said he has offered several times to pay what he thought the bill should be, which he estimates at $300.

“No one has the authorization to change anything,” Cross said. “I went in and spoke with a water employee who told me that ‘it is what it is and there is nothing we can do about it.'”

Cross said his protest has not settled the situation.

“Bob Pingley said he will meet with me Monday morning to discuss the matter,” Cross said. “I told him this did not help with my tenant leaving. You have shuffled me around from one person to the next.”

Broughton said Pingley and Cross are scheduled to sit down Monday morning to work through this issue.

“Mark has the right to do what he is doing,” Broughton said. “Bob is going by the law and the guidelines set forth. Hopefully all parties can get this resolved quickly.

“This is what I like about this country,” Broughton said. “Everyone has freedom and the opportunity to voice their opinions. I respect each citizen’s individual rights. Mr. Cross is just exercising his freedom. I also respect Mr. Pingley for doing his job.”

Cross said he felt he had no choice but to stage his protest Friday.

“I am a pretty level-headed guy who normally does not take things to extreme, but sometimes you just have to make your point and I am not just going to roll over for the city on this issue,” Cross said. “It’s a mistake and no one will own up to their mistake.”