City of Broussard officials say an $825,587 bill from Lafayette in a dispute over water service seems too high and have hired their own consultants to review the charges.
Lafayette Utilities System sent the bill on Tuesday to Broussard, alleging that someone with that city bypassed a wholesale water meter and that Broussard has been receiving some of its water free of charge for the past five years.
Lafayette’s city-owned utility system sells water to Broussard, and the smaller city then resells that water to businesses and residents on its distribution system.
Broussard Mayor Charles Langlinais said Wednesday that he is not opposed to paying for the water but has hired an outside consultant to calculate what he believes could be a more reliable figure.
The bypassed water meter is one in a series of metered valves used to keep track of how much water the Broussard system pulls from LUS.
LUS discovered in September that the meter had been bypassed in 2006 and calculated the bill based on how much water has flowed through the meter since it was reactivated about two months ago.
Langlinais said that he did not have a rough estimate of what he thinks the bill should be, but the mayor said that basing the bill off current water usage could produce an inflated figure.
He said demand on the meter in question is much greater today than it was five years ago because of growing developments in the area around the meter, which is on Youngsville Highway near Albertson’s Parkway.
Still uncertain is who turned on the valve that bypassed the water meter.
LUS installed the meter in 2005 after Broussard requested an additional link to the LUS system.
The meter was never activated, but the bypass valve was opened in 2006, allowing water to flow without being recorded by the meter, according to information from LUS.
LUS discovered the situation when reviewing Broussard’s existing connections to the LUS system after the smaller city had asked for an additional water line.
LUS Customer and Support Services Manager Andrew Duhon alleges in a letter accompanying the water bill that “someone under the direction” of Broussard opened the bypass valve without consulting LUS.
The bypass valve is generally used only when work is being done on a meter.
LUS Director Terry Huval has said the controls of the bypass valve are not locked, but specialized tools and knowledge are required.
Langlinais said he does not know who opened the valve.
“We’ve gone back and questioned everyone involved,” he said.
But the mayor said that he does not believe the question is critical because Broussard is prepared to pay for the water, though maybe not the figure sought by LUS.
“It’s clearly a miscommunication all around,” Langlinais said.
Huval said earlier this week that he could not speculate on what would happen if Broussard does not pay the bill in full, though he did say that nonpayment would be considered a breach of the contract between LUS and Broussard for wholesale water.