Another Utility Shocker : Sun Lakes Never Billed For $ 227,000 of Water Usage



sunlakes11/5/15 – In case you wondered why your utility bills keep going through the roof, here is – at least partially – your answer : for as far back as 7 years, the City “forgot” to read several water meters in Sun Lakes.

The result : $227,000 of water used in Sun Lakes was never billed.

….. and now the gated Country Club refuses to pay.



All meters in question served the public areas of Sun Lakes, including their exclusive Club House.

water-meter-16926730The meters were not read for a variety of reasons. One meter was installed and then completely forgotten about – it was never read.

Other meters were difficult to read due to their mounting positions, and because of that they were fitted with remote electronic readouts. When those readouts failed, Public Works did not repair them and those meters remained unread going forward.

However, it is important to note that all water meters continued to correctly register at all times.



"Water Expert" : former Public Works Director Duane Burk was responsible for collecting all water meter readings

“Water Expert” : former Public Works Director Duane Burk was responsible for water meter management

Managing the meters was the responsibility of the Public Works Department, at the time lead by former Director Duane Burk.

The City parted ways with Burk earlier this year. Burk used to pass himself off as a self proclaimed “Water Expert”, and many of Banning’s politicians seemed to buy into this claim. However, this, and other examples (view) seem to indicate that Burk was likely nothing more than an incompetent smooth-talker, who appears to not have cared about Banning nor its water assets, even one iota.

Yet politicians like Mayor Debbie Franklin and notorious good-ole boy Councilman Art Welch, looked at Burk in dire admiration, viewing him as nothing short of “brilliant”. It was their lack of good judgment and their lack of oversight that enabled Burk to create the very mess we are faced with here today.

The chickens are coming home to roost and the ratepayers are – once again – asked to foot the bill. This is how business is done in good-ole Banning.



ChamberAbout a year ago, the Banning Informer broke the story about the Banning Chamber of Commerce having received over $32,000 in free utilities (view story).

At the time, Chamber Director Don Robinson tried to insult the public by offering to pay half of the amount over the next 41 years, at $32.10 per month. The other half he expected to be waived. To this day the Chamber utility bill has not been settled.




Sun Lakes’ Club House received water while its meter remained unread

In a letter to the City of October 22 (click here to view letter), Sun Lakes’ General Manager Jeremy S. Wilson acknowledges the delivery of the $227,000 of water, but refuses to pay the incurred amount. Instead, he offers to pay approximately 10 cents on the dollar, or $24,552.40 to settle the entire claim.

In his letter Wilson points out that the entire claim could be settled in full by imposing a one time  $68.25 Special Assessment on every Sun Lakes household. But instead Sun Lakes prefers that ALL households of Banning pay for their bill.

Did he follow the example of the Banning Chamber of Commerce as an excuse not to pay?  Sun Lakes points to “water rule # 3″, which calls for a 3 year limitation on past collections (view rule)

However, “water rule # 3” is NOT a City ordinance. It is merely an internal administrative directive for staff, and has no legal bearing on the contractual relationship between the City and its water customers.



Councilman Don Peterson, to Sun Lakes: "pay or get shut off"

Councilman Don Peterson to Sun Lakes: “pay or get shut off”

There are currently three council members that reside in Sun Lakes: Art Welch, Ed Miller and George Moyer. Two of them (Miller and Moyer) have since recused themselves from this issue. This leaves Mayor Debbie Franklin, Art Welch and Councilman Don Peterson.

Between the three, Peterson is the only one speaking out on behalf of Banning’s ratepayers : in a statement to the Banning Informer Peterson expressed his outrage over the scandal and demanded that Sun Lakes be forced to pay the entire bill in full.

”Why shouldn’t Sun Lakes be treated like any other utility customer? They should either pay or they get shut off – just like anybody else”.




For the longest time, Banning’s major shortfall has been accountability, and this time it is no different.

Because of a decade long rule of the likes of Mayor Debbie Franklin, former Chamber president and Councilman Art Welch and others, lack of oversight, negligence and incompetence have long been the norm for Banning.

Only one Councilman is willing to face the problem head on : Don Peterson demands that Sun Lakes “pay or get shut off”.

For once, a Councilmember to the People’s liking !


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