Serving Franklin County, WA

Council overrules Lind mayor

Town returns funds collected illegally

LIND – A resident who was overcharged for water connection is getting thousands of dollars returned.

Briana Osborn appeared before the Town Council on Tuesday, Sept. 28, to plead her case for reimbursement of water connection fees after Mayor Paula Bell failed to provide proof of legal authority to collect the funds.

After listening to Osborn, and the mayor’s rebuttal, the council voted unanimously to return $5,239.85 to the homeowner.

At issue was whether the mayor had authority to authorize a contractor to trespass on Osborn’s property and perform work without first obtaining permission and without providing the owner the opportunity to hire her own contractor. The mayor also failed to seek a council vote on her unilateral action.

Furthermore, the issue included discussion on whether the mayor even had the authority to demand payments totaling $6,460 after only providing Osborn with information that set the connection cost at $500 for water and $500 for sewer, then agreeing with the fee schedule.

Osborn showed up at the meeting with a number of supporters and the signatures of about 100 residents calling for the exorbitant amount to be refunded.

“I was given an amount ($500 for water and $500 for sewer connection); I paid cash that day,” Osborn told the council. “I don’t think it’s fair to charge me thousands of dollars… The council should honor what your mayor and your clerk told told me.”

The mayor tried to justify collecting additional the excess amount, noting that she contacted a company working in town and asked if it would have employees install a water meter on Osborn’s property.

Osborn said she came home to find a meter installed and the mayor extorted the funds in exchange for turning on the water.

She said the mayor has made the issue “nothing but hell for me,” noting the issue had been ongoing for several months without resolution.

Those at the meeting asked the mayor to provide some verification Osborn new and agreed to the fees, but Bell was unable to provide any proof.

“I don’t know why she would have to approve it,” Bell said.

Residents pointed out the mayor, and town, would lose if Osborn sued. So, they asked the council for a refund vote.

The council unanimously approved of the refunded amount.

Author Bio

Roger Harnack, Publisher

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Roger Harnack is the co-owner/publisher of Free Press Publishing. Having grown up Benton City, Roger is an award-winning journalist, photographer, editor and publisher. He's one of only two editorial/commentary writers from Washington state to ever receive the international Golden Quill. Roger is dedicated to the preservation of local media, and the voice it retains for Eastern Washington.


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