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Moorhead church gets $148K bill rebate

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By Dave Olson

INFORUM

It's like pennies from heaven for St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Moorhead.

Well, more like greenbacks.

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About 150,000 of them.

That's what Moorhead Public Service paid the church after it was discovered the utility had been overbilling St. Joe's for electricity for about 14 years.

Parish Administrator Mike Heinzen is quick to say the utility wasn't to blame for the error.

He said the problem arose after an addition was built in 1996.

A contractor who worked on the project put in new electrical meters, but didn't remove old meters, which continued to be read by Moorhead Public Service.

"In essence, we were double billing a large part of their existing facility along with their new addition," said Bill Schwandt, MPS general manager.

When the addition was built, the utility noticed a jump in power consumption, but figured it had to do with use of the new addition, Schwandt said.

"Years went by, and they've just been paying a double bill," he said.

The issue came to light when an electrician working for the church raised questions about the multiple meters.

"We were looking for ways to cut our electrical bill, and we were meeting with Moorhead Public Service," Heinzen said. "Between Moorhead Public Service and our electrician, we came to the conclusion we had meters being read that shouldn't be."

St. Joseph's received a check from Moorhead Public Service - Schwandt said the amount was about $148,000 - and the church set the money aside for future building projects.

The intent is to someday build another addition to the church, Heinzen said.

"When we have funerals or large events, we're just a little bit cramped. We'd like to have a little more space if we can do it," he said.

Schwandt said the money for the rebate came out of the utility's reserves.

He said issues with double billing arise now and then, usually because of how a building was wired.

"It happens occasionally," he said. "Probably once every three years we get some situation."

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