DeKalb CEO Mike Thurmond explains problems and solutions to widespread water overbilling problems Thursday In Decatur. STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC
Photo: Steve Schaefer
Photo: Steve Schaefer

No quick fixes to water billing crisis, says DeKalb CEO Mike Thurmond

DeKalb CEO Mike Thurmond outlined broad plans Wednesday for correcting extreme water bills, including an independent review of charges and hiring more employees to resolve problems.

But Thurmond warned that it will take three or four years to replace water meters countywide and update government billing software.

“It won’t happen overnight. This is a journey, not an event,” Thurmond said as he presented his analysis of the water billing issues. “We’re going to learn from our mistakes, and we’re going to use that knowledge to build a more effective system we can all be proud of.”

He listed more than a dozen reasons for billing inaccuracies, including malfunctioning meters, estimated bills, poor customer service, lack of training and incorrect meter installations.

READ: DeKalb analysis of water billing problems

Thurmond said the billing crisis worsened when the county stopped mailing bills 

with potential errors in September. That decision led to charges piling up in the meantime while customer service representatives were overwhelmed.

Every DeKalb water and sewer customer should soon be receiving bills for usage since Jan. 1, he said. About 37,000 bills that were withheld last year are being reviewed and corrected.

For residents disputing their charges, the county is launching a pilot program in the next few months where they can meet with an outside mediator, go through their charges and try to reach an agreement on what should be owed, Thurmond said.

Some residents said they were disappointed they didn’t hear more concrete and immediate answers from Thurmond.

“I was expecting to see a plan,” said Jan Selman, a Decatur resident who hasn’t received a water bill since August. “I can understand when you have an issue, but I can’t understand the lack of communication.”

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A $1,500 water bill? DeKalb residents want answers

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