Naples man’s water bill saga takes new twist

— Progressive monthly spikes in his water bill annoyed Don Schulte Jr., but now he’s just plain mystified because they’ve suddenly reverted back to “normal.”

At issue in this case is the definition of normal.

Schulte, 50, is a single man who lives in a rent-subsidized apartment at Windsong Club in North Naples.

He saw his bill go from around $40 in January to $107 and $131 in February and March, and three weeks ago — with the help of his dad, Don Schultes Sr. — approached the Daily News to try to help him get to the root cause of the issue.

The Schultes said they figured the cause might be a leak (which was discounted by a maintenance man), or excessive common area irrigation (paid for by all residents), but that was discounted by Lori Trainer of Concord Management, which manages Windsong Club.

Utility bills are individual, and reflect individual use, she said.

Trainer then revealed that another person (who turned out to be Don Schulte Jr.’s mother) had been living at the apartment when the higher costs were incurred.

The Schultes conceded this was true, but said that Don Schulte Jr. and his mom had been cutting back severely on water use, even to the point of not using a clothes washer.

Trainer said Don Schulte Sr. had confronted management, and had compared his own bill at home with his son’s.

“Unfortunately in Collier County, multifamily units are billed at a higher rate than single-family units,” Trainer said at the time. “We’d love to change that, but that’s the way it is.”

The latest twist in the saga is that Don Schulte Jr.’s latest water bill is $37.

Speaking on his son’s behalf because his son can’t afford a phone or cell phone, Don Schulte Sr. said everyone is happy about the drop, but they remain completely confused.

“But, now the question is, what will next month’s bill be?” Don Schulte Sr. said.

He said he still maintains the higher prices were because of common area irrigation and shared charges, particularly after he spoke to one resident who told him one of his recent bills had been around $200, more than three times higher than normal.

Don Schulte Sr. said an earlier notification that the April bill would be lower because of a shorter billing period, also didn’t fit because there was only a few days’ difference.

Also puzzling, the father said, is that his son’s mom remains a house guest in the condo.

Wednesday, Trainer said the billing cycle had been shorter to the extent of nearly one-third, which accounts for the smaller bill.

It will likely rise proportionally back to “normal” next month, she said. “It depends if he still has an additional occupant.”

Trainer reiterated the reason for Don Schulte Jr.’s higher bills was simple:

“He had a 30 percent increase in consumption during those months,” she said.

Don Schulte Jr. takes home about $700 semimonthly, and his rent is $654 plus utilities. He works nights as a cleaner at Waterside Shops, but recently had his hours cut to 36, below the level that qualifies him for benefits.

His mom recently lost her husband, which is why she moved in with her son.

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