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March 16, 2013

Windber getting windfall: Electric billing error leads to payment from Richland

WINDBER — Windber Borough receives a pile of electric bills monthly – but for years there’s been one that stuck out as curious, Borough Manager Fred Oliveros said.

It said “Falls Run” – and for a decade, borough officials paid it, speculating it was for the public works shed.

Turns out, it was for nine street lamps in neighboring Richland Township, Oliveros said.

It’s a billing error that has been addressed with Penelec after nearly a decade of improper payments, officials from both communities confirmed.

Richland Township has sent an $11,000 check to Windber as reimbursement for the mistake.

“I guess the utility company got confused back then and started sending the bills to us,” said Oliveros, noting that the charges started coming in around 2003, years before he became manager.

The borough might still be paying it if a borough councilman didn’t bring it up while looking through the monthly bill list during the summer, Oliveros added.

“We Google’d the name and the address for Falls Run went to Berwind’s office in Windber,” Oliveros said, adding the borough quickly realized it was tied to the company’s decade-old Falls Run housing development.

Developed portions of the project were turned over to Richland Township in 2003 – but the township now realizes it never was billed for the lights, Richland Township Executive Secretary Kim Stayrook said.

After doing some of its own research, Richland Township officials voted earlier this month to reimburse Windber.

“My hat goes off to Richland Township,” Oliveros said. “We talked to them and they responded right away. I‚Äącommend them for their courtesy and professionalism through this whole thing.”

In a similar twist for Windber, one governmental body giveth and another taketh away.

Windber officials also learned this month that the borough must return more than $4,300 it was overpaid by the state for police pension plan survivor benefits.

It’s a simple fix though, Oliveros said. The borough received an increased contribution for the year – and officials soon learned they were not entitled to it.

“So, we’re basically just sending it back,” Councilman Jim Spinos said.

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