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Bad lights?

An audit may be the answer for municipalities being overcharged for utilities.

This was one of the messages at a meeting of the Mid-Eastern Counties Association of Boroughs last Wednesday in the Northampton Borough municipal building.

Vincent DiMaio of National Utilities Refund, which has an office in Northampton, said on average his firm has determined 80 percent of firms and government entities are overcharged. The errors usually occur due to miscalculations and discrepancies in utility provider records.

DiMaio said many municipalities and private companies fail to realize the importance of auditing utility and telecom budgets and the accompanying monthly charges,

There is no charge for the audit if no errors are found. The company works on a contingency basis and, DiMaio said, it is compensated only from refunds and credits it obtains on behalf of clients.

The most common types of errors result from an incorrect number of street lights, hidden telecom charges, incorrect tax classifications, telephone cramming charges, charges on unused old lines and excessive overcharges. DiMaio said money can be saved by finding ways to reduce how much is paid per minute for telecom or kilowatt for electric and gas and third-party suppliers that offer competitive rates and options.

Wilson Borough has brought National Utilities Refund aboard for an audit of its utility services. The audit looks for errors and overcharges over a three- to four-year period. Audits are performed in eight weeks and refunds are sent by the utilities if errors in billing are found.

Northampton representatives at the meeting included council President John Yurish, Councilmen Keith Piescienski and Tony Pristash, Mayor Thomas Reenock, borough Manager Gene Zarayko and Assistant to the Manager Leroy Brobst.

Mayor Joseph Bundra and borough secretary Sandra Gyecsek represented Coplay. Catasauqua Councilman Al Regits was present along with representatives from other boroughs in the area.