Utility Glitch Gives OP Arboretum Free Water in 2012

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- The Overland Park Arboretum spent $26,000 on its water bill in 2011. So far in 2012, it hasn't paid a penny.

It's not because it hasn't used any water during this extreme drought - it has, a lot of it. It's because it took months for anyone to notice the Arboretum's water meter was stuck and not recording any usage.

The city of Overland Park says the meter has apparently been stuck since November and because the Arboretum spends more than $2,000 a month on water, the Arboretum probably saved $18,000.

Visitor Ed Troop was taking pictures at the Arboretum on Friday and tells FOX 4, "I think it's great.  An organization that is primarily based on contributions and the water company decides to contribute that much money, it's great."

The utililty, WaterOne, says it's computerized system actually flagged the meter back in February but didn't send anyone out to check the broken meter until just a few weeks ago.  That's because 90% of WaterOne's accounts are residential customers and those flagged accounts take higher priority.

Commercial accounts like the Overland Park Arboretum are considered low priority.

In a statement to FOX 4, WaterOne says, "The Arboretum's issue is a rare occurrence for us.  Every effort is made to minimize system loss; yet, it's a cost of doing business that every utility faces.  Our system worked as intended, flagging the account.  Could it work faster?  Indeed, we believe so.  That's why WaterOne continually improves its business practices, using opportunities like this to adjust and innovate."

The utility tells FOX 4 it won't seek back payment because the mistake was its own and there's no way to known exactly how much water the city used.

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