Sheriff: Martin County man arrested for stealing water from struggling system
Early Tuesday, officials with the Martin County sheriff's office learned of a man using a cheater bar to get water to his home.
A cheater bar is used to bypass water meters. It costs the owner $8 but can cost the county thousands of dollars per month.
"It's a business. It's just like a Walmart or a Dollar General. If someone's shopping there, they're shoplifting, then what happens is ultimately they have to raise the prices on their products for the next person", said Martin County Sheriff John Kirk. "And we're going to pay more money."
Sheriff John Kirk says the man, Michael Maynard, may have been stealing water from the district since June. He says he will arrest anyone in the county immediately if he sees water theft.
"I think we have to get a little tougher. It's theft of services", said Kirk. "It's no different than trying to steal electric from the power company."
Utility board officials say these thefts make water more expensive for the people in the district who are not breaking the law.
"If our water loss wasn't nearly as high as it is, we wouldn't have had to have such a high raise", said John Hensley, secretary of the Martin County Water Board.
Hensley adds many people do not install these cheater bars properly. He says that also costs the county a lot of money.
"Say it drops out and it runs wide open, you could look at $4,000 to $5,000 in a month", said Hensley.
The sheriff says that anyone caught stealing water in the district will be prosecuted and arrested on the spot moving forward. He hopes this will serve as a deterrent for anyone stealing water in the county.
"As the sheriff, if I know these people are stealing water, it's my job to arrest them for it," said Sheriff Kirk. "It's my job if they're out stealing lawnmowers and weedeaters to arrest them for it. And I'm going to do the same thing if they're stealing electricity or if they're stealing water."
Maynard is in the Big Sandy Regional Detention Center and faces a charge of theft of services.