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DeKalb mailing out water bills that had been withheld

Jennifer Ffrench-Parker | 12/30/2016, 6 a.m.
The 34,300 DeKalb water customers who have been waiting on their bills since September will finally be getting them. DeKalb ...
DeKalb mailing out water bills that had been withheld

The 34,300 DeKalb water customers who have been waiting on their bills since September will finally be getting them.

DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis said Dec. 28 that the county will begin mailing 50,000 bills that it had withheld because of inaccurate data in its billing software stemming from its transition from outdated meters to newer technology.

“The root causes of those data issues have now been identified, and those previously withheld bills will now be mailed out,” Ellis said in an open letter to residents.

There are 50,000 bills because there are multiple bills for some of the customers.

The bills, estimated at $4.2 million, will be arriving mailboxes at the start of the new year. Each is average of each customers water usage based on 10 of their 2015 bills after the county eliminated the lowest and highest bills.

Ellis said the county is dis-regarding the highest and lowest bills and averaging the rest.

Customers receiving the outstanding bills will not be penalized, and Ellis said they will have 12 months to pay the outstanding amounts.

Outstanding balances that were billed prior to September are excluded.

Ellis said affected customers will be treated fairly.

“We recognize that for those customers whose statements have been withheld, this creates a hardship,” he said. “Customers will not be back-billed if the actual usage amount exceeds the estimated amount.”

For about 5,700 customers who are self-enrolled in the county’s Dispute Resolution process, Ellis said 1,300 of them have been identified as having questionable information and will be offered the same process as the customers whose bills were withheld by the county.

“The remaining customers will continue to be serviced via Dispute Resolution, and will not deviate from that process,” he said.

Ellis, who leaves office Dec. 31, said that all high water bills are not the result of county error.

“A high water reading may be the result of a leakage on your property, higher consumption due to irrigation (particularly during the ongoing drought), or because of our higher water rates which were mandated by a federal consent decree,” he said. “Also, as we replace older meters with newer technology, we can expect more accurate meter readings. Any of these could result in higher water bills.”

Going forward, Ellis said the county has implemented a verification process to ensure future accuracy and that all accounts – identified as questionable – are being verified by field technicians who will tackle them first before eventually verifying all the water meters of all 184,000 customer accounts.

“A team of auditors are being trained to monitor irregularities in accounts and begin corrective actions immediately and autonomously,” he said.