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More in Muskegon Hts. come forward saying they have unusually high water bills

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MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich. -- First it was neighbors, but now several businesses have also come forward to FOX 17 claiming they've had unusually high water bills from the city.

A town hall meeting set for the evening of Jan. 8 was scrapped due to inclement weather, but city council member Eddie Jenkins who organized the event, stood by his claims made Tuesday that the issue of unusual water bills is widespread throughout Muskegon Heights.

“If one or two people come to me to complain then that’s probably something we can probably check in to rather and fix quickly,” he told FOX 17 on Jan. 6.

“But when you’ve got more than 10 people then there’s a problem somewhere… and they’ve all got the same problem?”

Chris Ritter has owned A.B. Electrical, 2240 Glade Street, since April of 2013. He said twice last year he received water bills from the city for thousands of dollars more than he usually pays.

“We pulled the bill out and I saw $6,186," he said. "We didn’t use that much water.”

Ritter is referring to a bill he received in Jan. 2014. The bill, which covered a three month period, claimed Ritter owed more than $6,000 for using 812,000 gallons of water. Ritter told FOX 17 he normally averages between 10,000 and 20,000 gallons of water use per billing period.

“It’s completely off, I mean the only thing we have people here doing is using the restrooms and washing their hands," he said. "There’s no showers, no clothes being washed, no hot water heater.”

A similar situation happened again in Oct. 2014 when Ritter received a bill for $1,837, alleging he used 208,000 gallons of water.

The city agreed to reassess the bills to a lower figure in both instances, but something still didn't seem right, according to Ritter.

“They did correct it, but we still have no explanation of what happened," he said, adding he was never told how many gallons of water he actually used during that time period, and the reassessed amounts were still double what he normally paid.

Kathy Homan said she reached out to FOX 17 after seeing our original report on Chuck Schalk's water bill battle. Schalk told FOX 17 he was billed more than $2,000 for a three month period for using more than 300,000 gallons of water.

“I couldn’t believe it," Homan said. "I was surprised that other people had that problem."

Homan, who owns Rocket Pocket Billiards in Muskegon, used to run her business out of a location at 2800 Glade Street in Muskegon Heights before moving out in April 2012.

She still owns the Glade Street building, but said she received a water bill for that location in Oct. 2013 for $2,468. Up until that point she'd been receiving 'zero usage' bills, only having to pay for city and administration fees.

The Oct. 2013 bill claimed Homan's building used more than 330,000 gallons of water. Homan said she and her husband checked for leaks and water damage, but found none.

She claims she was told by the city her meter was tested by a third party in Muskegon and was found to have no issue. Homan refuses to pay and says the city hasn't been helpful as they haven't agreed to reassess the fees.

"They just dismissed it and that was immediately after I’d gotten the bill," she said.

“I said (to the city), well you know, that’s your story and you can tell it any way you want to, but my story is that 334,000 gallons of water are not in my building.”

Homan said she is hoping to attend the meeting now scheduled for Monday.

“How can this happen? How can there be no usage for me, and then that much usage in a three month period," she said.

On Tuesday, Natasha Henderson, Muskegon Height's city manager told FOX 17 by phone she didn't believe the issue was widespread beyond Schalk's situation.

“We believe we’ve done our due diligence, and this does not happen a lot but unfortunately it can if you have a leak," she said.

FOX 17 reached out to Mayor Darrell Paige for comment but did not hear back Thursday evening. FOX 17 also reached out to city manager Natasha Henderson who refused to comment on the situation.

The town hall meeting organized by Jenkins has been rescheduled for Jan. 12 at 5 p.m. at Muskegon Heights City Hall.

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