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July 2010

City government of the month: Brockton, MA

I feel kinda bad not giving it to Ann Arbor (see yesterday's post) and while Detroit is a perennial contender--one wag wrote recently, "Detroit's city council puts the dis in dysfunctional"--but, sorry, worthy contenders, Brockton's performance is simply too outstanding to ignore.

The Brockton Water Department has been inaccurately billing thousands of residents for more than a decade because of widespread failure in the city’s water meters, city officials said yesterday.

The city is seeking to reclaim millions in lost revenue that it says resulted from chronic undercharging for water usage, sending retroactive bills to customers, some for thousands of dollars. One woman said she received a bill for $100,000, which water officials said was probably a mistake. The Department of Public Works commissioner, Michael Thoreson, said the department also has mistakenly overcharged some residents. . . .

Thoreson said the problem stemmed from faulty water meters: Roughly 9,000 of the city’s 25,000 meters are not accurately reporting usage, he said.

Patrick Quinn, a member of the city Water Commission, which governs water rates, said most of those meters have probably been malfunctioning for at least five years and some for more than a decade, suggesting deep management problems in the department.

Yet another way grocery retailers demonstrate their competitiveness

They're starting to move in on restaurants.

The grocer-as-quick-serve-restaurant model has done well in the recession, in part because the convenience is good and cost is low.

But even as the economy upticks slightly, ready-to-eat food continues to drive more traffic to grocery stores, increasingly blurring the traditional boundaries between supermarkets and restaurants.