DeKalb County says it has released nearly all water bills held for reviewA dripping faucet. Photo by Danny Steaven. Source: Wikimedia commons
DeKalb County says most of the 37,000 water bills held for review have been released to customers.
“DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond announced that the final batch of approximately 37,000 held water bills has been released. The remaining 1,300 held bills were released the week of March 19 and all county water and sewer customers have returned to a normal billing cycle,” the county announced. “Only 253, or less one percent, of the 37,000 validated bills are currently in the dispute process.”
Thurmond has made fixing what he has called a “crisis” a top priority. The bills weren’t mailed because of questions about their accuracy. Some customers have gone months without receiving a bill. The county in 2015 lowered the amount of water usage that would flag a bill for review.
“The county made a policy decision in 2015 to lower the consumption variance that would trigger a billing exception in the [billing] system,’” an audit of the problem says. “Previously, the consumption level would have to be 500 percent greater or less than the previous billing cycle’s meter reading to trigger an exception to be resolved by billing specialists. This type of exception is known as a High/Low exception. As a result of inaccurate bills coming in under the threshold, the county lowered the High/Low exception threshold to a 300 percent variance to help ensure additional vetting by billing specialists and analysts before bills with an initial 300-500 percent variance are issued to customers.”
That resulted in more bills being flagged for review, overwhelming the county’s staff and creating a backlog.
The county says Thurmond has taken other steps to address the water billing problems via the “New Day Project.”
“This year, the county increased call center staffing and reduced average customer service wait times by more than four minutes,” the announcement from the county says. “A verification process to independently expedite the review of customer accounts, water consumption and billing data was also created and the county started the process of replacing aging and defective water meters and implementing a new utility billing system.”
The news is unlikely to satisfy some restless water customers who complain about inaccurate bills.
CBS Atlanta recently ran a story about a homeowner contesting a $20,000 water bill.