Toby Jennings of Lithonia, whose current water bill is $2009.49, looks over the meeting program while DeKalb CEO Mike Thurmond updates residents about the depth of the county’s remaining water billing problems during his third public update on Thursday in Decatur. Curtis Comptonemail@example.com
Credit: Curtis Compton
Credit: Curtis Compton
Thurmond, delivering his third water billing update in three months, encouraged residents to continue disputing their bills. He said the county is close to verifying charges for 27,000 customers whose bills have been withheld since last fall because of questions about their accuracy. The county previously mailed 8,000 bills that were recently validated.
“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.”
Thurmond outlined the government's efforts to replace water meters, correct math errors, resolve disputes, upgrade billing systems and improve customer service — actions 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.
Those who dispute high bills are required to pay only their average amount until the issue is resolved.
Tonya Cotton, who lives in the Decatur area, said customer service representatives need to do a better job of working with residents to correct erroneous bills.
“They’ll say we’re just using that much water, but I don’t own a car wash. It’s just me and my husband,” said Cotton, who received a $491 bill last week. She’s asking Thurmond, “What are you going to do about it?”
Thurmond listed several actions the government has taken since he took office to end a problem that's grown over decades:
The most exorbitant bills have been corrected; more customer service representatives and meter technicians have been hired; average call wait times are just 20 seconds; call volume has declined 43 percent compared to last year; and the county started a regular meter replacement plan.
In the meantime, the best recourse for aggrieved residents is to contest bills they think are wrong, he said.
“You can’t rebuild trust in a day,” Thurmond told the audience. “It’s going to take three to four years to correct the problems that were created over the last 40-plus years.”
Homeowners received incorrect bills for thousands of dollars.