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After illegal meter bypass, city changes contract

Perrin

FORT WAYNE – Fort Wayne City Utilities is taking steps to ensure the problems it experienced with the Maysville Regional Sewer and Water District aren’t repeated.

The Board of Public Works on Wednesday approved an amended contract with the district to add default provisions and penalties should the district not live up to its agreement.

In February, James E. Perrin of Harlan admitted to diverting wastewater around a meter, costing Fort Wayne tens of thousands of dollars. In late May 2011, an Indiana Board of Accounts audit found that Perrin diverted thousands of gallons of sewage around the meter to avoid being billed by the city of Fort Wayne.

He repaid the full amount of restitution – $150,000 – helping get his four-year prison sentence suspended.

Perrin was the district’s maintenance operator and was the board president until February 2011. According to court documents, Perrin engaged in official misconduct from November 2007 through December 2010 by periodically diverting sewage to prevent the district from being billed the full amount for wastewater treatment services.

The district’s wastewater is processed by Fort Wayne, and the district is billed for the total volume measured by a flow meter on the system, according to court documents. But by using a bypass valve normally used for repairs, Perrin was able to reroute the flow, diverting between 38 percent and 44 percent away from the meter.

Mary Jane Slaton, City Utilities spokeswoman, said when the original agreement with the district was written there were no default provisions or penalties for the district should it not pay its bills or try to divert sewage around a meter. She said at the time there was likely no thought that something like that would ever occur.

The new contract contains provisions basically stating that the district agrees to pay for all sewage it sends to the city. If the district breaks the agreement, Slaton said it could be placed in default and the city would be allowed to charge the district a higher rate. She said the city would still treat the sewage, however.

The utility also hopes to include similar language with its other contract customers, Slaton said. While there haven’t been any problems with them, she said it was best for the city to protect itself should something occur.

blanka@jg.net

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