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"It's frightening": Disabled Sacramento woman, 91, in battle with city over $3K water bill

Disabled Sacramento woman, 91, in battle with city over $3K water bill
Disabled Sacramento woman, 91, in battle with city over $3K water bill 02:32

SACRAMENTO — A 91-year-old disabled Sacramento woman is in a battle with city hall over a big bill.

"I mean, this is just beyond belief, beyond belief," 91-year-old Barbara Hugo said.

Hugo read her city water bill out loud.

"$3,375.13," Hugo said.

It's a sum she calls scary.

"It's scary, to be honest with you. It's frightening," Hugo said.

 Sacramento's Department of Utilities also sent Hugo a letter threatening a lien on her home if she doesn't pay it.

"Well, it's a shock," Hugo said.

Neighbor Patti Martin has been trying to help handle the paperwork.

"They just kept telling us to be patient," Martin said. "In March alone, we lost 251,000 gallons of water — that's ridiculous."

The cause of the big bill started last August, ten months ago, in Barbara's backyard — a leaky pipe. Hugo and her family say they followed the city's solution, using a low-income program called Leak-Free Sacramento to pay for the fix. Only when Barbara was approved, the city program was temporarily discontinued.

Hugo's son Josh Cohn says a utility employee advised them to wait for the program to restart, and they did.

"So we waited," Cohn said. "Had we known back in August, September, October, that these negotiations hadn't been completed, we would have made very different decisions, and that really is the crux of the problem."

The Leak-Free Sacramento program was just reinstated in May, and the leak was finally fixed.

A utility spokesperson says Hugo's bill stands. Their statement reads, in part: "...when there is a leak on the property owner's side of water service, the property owner is responsible for service charges related to water use created by the leak..."

"I am 91 years old and I'm living basically on social security," Hugo said.

Now she's stuck with a ballooned bill.

"I mean, you got to be kidding," Hugo said.

The city is holding firm as of now, requiring Hugo to pay this bill. A city spokesperson did say they will review the case to see if other types of assistance can be offered.

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