Merced Union High School District gets $480,000 after utility overpayment at Atwater High

dyawger@mercedsunstar.comDecember 19, 2013 

— Imagine discovering you are owed $480,000 for mistakenly paying into a utility account for about 10 years. That’s what Merced Union High School District administrators experienced recently.

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. gave the district a check for nearly half a million dollars after it was discovered the school system was mistakenly paying for power charges at a cogeneration system at Atwater High School.

Ron Perez, the district’s director of maintenance and operations, said a cogeneration system was installed by PG&E about 10 years ago. There was a meter on the system but it was intended just to measure the energy generated by the cogeneration unit.

Perez explained that most of the district’s campuses receive power from the Merced Irrigation District. After an inventory of utility charges, he discovered PG&E had an account at Atwater High School. A district maintenance person then spent about an hour tracking down the meter, which was located near the swimming pool.

It took utility representatives a couple of months to check into the matter. Ultimately they reported the school district shouldn’t have been paying the charges, setting the stage for the large-scale refund.

“It was neat stumbling upon these things,” Perez said. “That was great, actually. Over the years nobody said anything about the bills and just paid them. The electricity was used to power the sign on the football field. Rather than just monitoring energy, they had been charging us.”

Scott Scambray, district superintendent, thanked Perez and his maintenance staff for finding the overcharge. He said it hasn’t been decided what to do with the money.

“I was excited, especially in these lean times,” Scambray said. “I was proud of them for catching it.”

Travis Kirk, the district’s director of facilities and transportation, said the discover of the overcharge and subsequent payback by PG&E was more than a pleasant surprise: There were high-fives all around.

Sun-Star staff writer Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or dyawger@mercedsunstar.com.

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