DeKalb CEO Mike Thurmond updates residents about the depth of the county's remaining water billing problems during his third public update on Thursday, June 29, 2017, in Decatur. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton

Complaints of high DeKalb water bills continue as county seeks fixes

Exasperated DeKalb residents hit with expensive water bills told county CEO Mike Thurmond on Thursday they’re still suffering, even as Thurmond tried to reassure them that the county is making progress to fix the problem.

About 50 residents confronted Thurmond during a public water billing meeting in Decatur with stories of bills costing hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Thurmond encouraged them to continue disputing their bills, and he said the county is close to verifying the charges for 27,000 customers whose bills have been withheld since last fall because of questions about their accuracy.

“We’re on the precipice of having resolved all of these issues,” Thurmond said of the held bills. “I will get our system back to normal.”

DeKalb CEO Mike Thurmond updates residents about the depth of the county's remaining water billing problems during his third public update on Thursday, June 29, 2017, in Decatur. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton

Thurmond outlined the government’s efforts to replace water meters, correct math errors, resolve disputes, upgrade billing systems and improve customer service — efforts he hopes will greatly reduce billings inaccuracies.

Most of those efforts will take time, but Thurmond says the county is close to stabilizing billing systems in the short term. 

One resident, Randy Harling of Stonecrest, said he received a bill of $1,395 for two months of water usage. He said he struggles to get his phone calls to customer service representatives returned.

“That’s not a little deal. That’s a lot of money,” Harling said. “It’s been over a year. Nobody has called me.”

Thurmond, hosting his third water billing session, apologized again for the county’s billing mistakes and said he’s taking responsibility for repairing the system.

Several residents said they understood the magnitude of the problem, but the county has a long way to go. Customer service representatives need to stop blaming residents for their bills, provide accurate information and follow up on their promises.

“Stop telling us the meter is right and accurate. Anything manmade has flaws,” said Phyllis Wallace of Ellenwood, who said her $300-plus bill was too high. “It’s just me and my husband. There’s no reason my bill should be extremely high.”

Exclusive to subscribers: Read in-depth coverage of the DeKalb water billing crisis on myAJC.com.

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