Falls Church Rejects Paying Water Refunds
City Council voted 6-0 not to pay refund claims to Fairfax.
The City of Falls Church City Council voted 6-0 Monday night not to pay claims from Fairfax County water customers for alleged overcharged bills.
City Councilman Lawrence Webb said council was advised by their lawyer not to pay the claims but to take the claims through the legal process.
“We’re going to take the legal process and let it play out,” Webb said.
McLean residents are Falls Church customers and had requested a refund. Dranesville Supervisor John Foust has not responded to inquiries asking for reaction to the action by the Falls Church Council.
Since December, several customers, mostly in Fairfax County, have complained that their water bills from the City of Falls Church were overcharged. Customers allege that they were overcharged between fiscal years 2007 through 2009. Alexandria-based lawyer John Charles Bennison filed a lawsuit on behalf of 21 water utility customers who alleged they were overcharged for services. According to the water utility’s website, the company supplies water to 35,000 commercial and residential customers within the City of Falls Church and Fairfax County.
Barbara Gordon, spokeswoman for the city said there is no court date as of yet. She said the city will communicate their decision to the customers who allege they were overcharged.
“This week letters will go out to the 700 customers who asked for refunds,” Gordon said.
Background: The refunds are part of a court battle between Falls Church and Fairfax. A Fairfax County Circuit Court judge ruled in January 2010 that Falls Church had been making a profit by charging customers more than it actually cost to produce the water. Then they spent those profits on city services.
Judge R. Terrence Ney called that unconstitutional, "extra-territorial" tax on Fairfax County customers.
Then in June 2010 the McLean Citizens Association sent a letter the Sharon Bulova, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, and John Foust, our supervisor which said, "Since most citizens of McLean (those living inside the Beltway) pay for water rates to (Falls Church) which are more than one-third higher than rates charged by Fairfax Water to its customers, we urge the board of supervisors to commission a study examining the possibility of Fairfax Water assuming provision of water in area currently served by (Falls Church.)"
Fairfax County is already pursuing a refund of overcharges that were paid by the County, including Fairfax County Public Schools, for the years 2007 through 2010, said Dranesville Supervisor John Foust. The owners of large commercial properties like office buildings have also requested refunds, Foust said.
How many folks are owed money?
About 110,000 Fairfax County residents are served by Falls Church Water, Foust said including most of us in McLean. Fairfax county residents make up 92 percent of the Falls Church water customers.
McLean Patch Editor Bobbi Bowman contributed to this story.