DeKalb tries to solve water billing complaints

Residents’ complaints about water bills continue to flood DeKalb County, which is trying to improve customer service and reduce billing problems.

DeKalb receives twice as many phone calls about water billing issues than it should, said Antrameka Knight, who oversees the county’s water and sewer billing. That amounts to more than 30,000 calls per month compared to national standards of about 15,000 monthly.

Knight told county commissioners Tuesday that customer service representatives are receiving additional training, and residents are getting their problems resolved more often during the first call.

Also, the number of people seeking in-person water billing help decreased 22 percent from 2014 to 2015, Knight said.

“When people want to come in, it’s less about payment, and it’s more about sitting down and asking questions,” she said.

But Commissioner Stan Watson said that while the county is making progress, more work needs to be done to prevent billing issues.

"I still have a problem with the high water bills that are going out from the county undetected," Watson said. "How can we flag high water bills? We need to make sure we take the time for increased customer service for those customers."

DeKalb plans to launch a revised online billing website later this year that includes more e-billing options and statement histories.

The county also will send mail usage warnings this spring to residents who have in the past consumed more water for irrigation, sprinklers and pools.

In addition, DeKalb is installing more accurate water meters for the county’s 180,000 residential water customers over the next few years.

Most increases in water bills are caused by high customer consumption, according to county audits. DeKalb is responsible for billing increases when there’s a leak in county pipes or when water meters are faulty.