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DeKalb County’s new water billing system confuses customers

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DeKalb County’s new water billing system confuses customers

An example of one of the new water bills going out to DeKalb County residents. Photo obtained via DeKalb County.

This story has been updated.

DeKalb County, GA — DeKalb County rolled out a new water billing system with little fanfare, and it caught many customers off guard.

The county announced the new system on Jan. 23 via Facebook. The new billing system is called enQuesta.

“DeKalb County has migrated its billing system to a new platform. Due to this migration, all customers have been assigned a new account number,” the post says. “To receive your new account number before your next statement, please email [email protected] or call 404-378-4475, and press 1.”

That post prompted many questions from customers. Some noted that without the new account numbers, they couldn’t pay their bill for this month.

“I have been trying to pay my bill since last week without success,” one commenter said.

Other commenters chimed in with similar stories about being unable to pay their bills. Another commenter reported being on hold with DeKalb Watershed for an hour.

It’s the only post about the new billing system on the county’s Facebook page. The county didn’t send out any press releases announcing the new system, unlike previous new initiatives emanating from the county’s troubled water department.

Decaturish asked county spokespeople several questions about this system and asked if the county planned to do any additional communications around it. The county has not responded to those questions because the spokespeople say they are busy handling unrelated media requests.

The county did post a link on Twitter to a page that has more information about the new bills. To view that page, click here.

Water and sewer services aren’t the only bills affected by the change. The bills will also change for people who use commercial sanitation services, aviation services and human services provided by DeKalb County.

“For increased customer convenience and transparency, DeKalb County is updating the customer portal for viewing and managing your account details,” the county’s website says. “Enrollment in this new portal will begin in January 2024.

“If you are currently enrolled in the paperless billing for your DeKalb County Services, you will need to enroll again to access the new portal in January 2024. If you are currently enrolled in ACH payments, these will continue if you notify your banking institution to allow the new payment processor – Chase Payment Tech – to do so.”

The county says that it will begin accepting new payment methods as part of the change.

“For increased customer experience, DeKalb County will be adding Apple Pay, Google Pay, Venmo and PayPal,” the website says.

The new billing system will also affect customers on a payment plan.

A copy of the new bill that was forwarded to Decaturish says, “Please be advised we are moving to a new billing system. As a result, all DELINQUENT Installment Plan Agreements will be CANCELED effective JANUARY 16, 2024.”

The lack of communication around the roll-out of the new water billing system is notable given past controversies involving DeKalb County billing. One of the first things CEO Michael Thurmond did after being sworn in back in 2017 was to address many of the long-standing issues with water billing, which ranged from people getting bills for eye-popping amounts of money to people not getting a bill at all for months at a time, only to be hit up later for failing to pay.

Thurmond called his initiative the New Day Project. In 2019, the county began replacing more than 100,000 water meters that were aging and possibly defective.

During that process, the county made a point of prioritizing communication with customers.

“A robust communications strategy will ensure that all affected customers are contacted at least five times during the water meter replacement process,” a press release from 2019 says. “Customer communications include billing inserts, the county website, Nextdoor and other social media, news media, the weekly county newsletter, DCTV and yard signs where meters are being replaced.”

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