SIST appeals ruling in utility theft case

Case moves from municipal court to circuit court

Allegations that two properties owned by the Samanta Roy Institute of Science and Technology have been stealing power from Shawano Municipal Utilities has moved from municipal to circuit court.

Shawano police were notified in February of a theft complaint involving meter-jumping at two ostensibly vacant SIST properties: 201 N. Main St. in the city, the former Muehls Furniture building, and N5791 Riverside Drive, a vacant residence in the town of Wescott.

A contractor doing construction work at the Wescott property had requested SMU remove the utility meter, which is how SMU discovered that the meter had been tampered with to bypass the meter and provide power to the property.

Brian Knapp, city administrator and SMU general manager, said it felt prudent to inspect the meters at the owner’s other properties.

In doing so, SMU discovered alleged meter tampering at the Main Street property.

Police issued a citation for theft to SIST on March 17 and referred the matter to municipal court.

SIST entered a plea of not guilty, but the court granted SMU a default judgment in the case. There was no SIST representative at the municipal court hearing.

SIST filed an appeal of the municipal court judgment in Shawano-Menominee Circuit Court. Being the next highest court in the legal system, circuit court is where municipal judgments are appealed.

SMU has also “back-billed” SIST for the power, even though there’s no way of knowing how much power had been used.

If the bill isn’t paid, the properties would be subject to disconnection and the due amount put on the property owner’s tax bill.

The back-billing is based on a calculation recommended by the state’s Public Service Commission, which allows the billing to go back to when the meters were installed or the last time they were inspected.

Knapp said that would amount to about $19,000 between the two properties, if the alleged thefts began after the last meter inspections, which would have occurred in the mid-2000s.

However, he said, there’s no way to know when it really began or how much was stolen, which is why SMU is using the PSC guidelines for its billing.

The court ruling applied only to the $333 citation, not the back-billing.

There is currently no date scheduled in the circuit court appeal.