One Neighborhood Condominium Association, is a condominium association located on 4th Street between 4th Street and 6th Street on the east and west and bordered by Gay Street on the south. At the time of the circumstances it was a condominium association of 74 units. It normally used 3 gallons of water per minute or approximately 3,855 gallons in an average 30 day cycle. Suddenly, during May through July of 2014, that usage jumped to 32,438 gallons in a 30 day cycle or approximately 23 gallons per minute. It was enough usage to fill a swimming pool every 19 hours for those periods. The property was searched for leaks, but none were ever found. No repairs were ever made by the City of Columbus or by One Neighborhood Condominium Association. Even if there had been a leak, a leak expert testified at the hearing before the City that a leaking pipe in the irrigation system would not use those disputed amounts.
In short, since the beginning of the condominium association in 2007 until when the expert prepared the graphic below, the condominium association had used 6,200 units of water; however, 4,000 units of that usage were during the period of time of the anomaly in May, June and July of 2014. The leak expert also stated that the June through November usage of the five (5) years preceding 2014 did not add up to what was claimed to be used in just three (3) months of May, June and July of 2014.
One Neighborhood Condominium Association paid the disputed bills in full in order to maintain water service. It was granted a hearing to appeal the imposition of the amounts and the hearing was held on March 9, 2015. The hearing was held in front of a Management Analyst II, Art Curatti. The Division of Water of the City of Columbus was allowed to proceed first, even though it had not filed an appeal. After the hearing on March 9, 2015, Analyst Curatti, as the hearing officer, issued a written letter of approximately one page deciding the matter in favor of City Hall based on two presumptions which were not based on fact or testimony. The presumptions were (i) that water had gone through the meter; and (ii) that when no other evidence was available or there was no other explanation, the owner, One Neighborhood Condominium Association in these circumstances, was responsible for the water charged. Analyst Curatti’s decision gave no notice of the right of appeal or to where to appeal. The decision was not mailed until 5 or 6 days after the decision was actually written or dated.
One Neighborhood appealed the matter to the Administrator of the Division of Water and also to the Director of the Department of Public Utilities. The Administrator of the Division of Water of the Department of Public Utilities of the City of Columbus, without taking any argument, asking for any briefs or even having a copy of the transcript of the March 9, 2015 hearing;, merely confirmed the decision of the Analyst Curatti. One Neighborhood appealed to the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas.