POCOMOKE CITY, Md.- Imagine getting your water bill in the mail, and noticing it had gone up dramatically compared to last month's bill. That is what happened to some residents in Pocomoke City. City officials explain it is a matter of making adjustments, to make up for months of mistakes.
About 15 percent of the town recently received letters from the water department, acknowledging higher than average water bills were given out. Officials say in some cases, water leaks could be to blame. But in others, it is all because of human error.
"Current charges, $167 and past balance, is $81.05," noted Danielle Parks, while pointing out her current water bill.
Parks said she was shocked to see her bill more than double in just a month, and went to the city for answers.
"They just chalked it up to I was using more, or I had a leak, or it's always being put off on my end. It's never been oh, well it might be coming from our end," lamented Parks.
But the problem may go further.
In fact, Pocomoke City officials said the sudden spike in water bills was all because of inaccurate reads on water meters like this, going back months.
"We saw some errors into some meters that were not read correctly, with some human error, it was some computer error, but right now, we have established some great guidelines that this will never happen again," explained Mayor Bruce Morrison. "And I can assure the people that we are working with everyone in Pocomoke who has a problem, on an individual basis."
According to the mayor, resident's bills were being underestimated for about eight months in a row. An employee apparently wasn't taking accurate reads, which resulted in lower water bills. Now, the city is making adjustments to compensate for errors totaling some $100,000.
But people like Parks don't think they should have to pay for the city's mistakes.
"We still have to pay this bill, even if it's not from our end of a leak or anything," she said. "They do say they'll have payment arrangements, which they don't have anymore. But still, we have to pay for something that's not our fault?"
"It's just like anything else," noted Mayor Morrison. "It's a utility. Water went through their meter, and we have to treat all the water that goes through our meters. If you had a low water bill, month after month, you should have noticed it and caught it. You would think there was a problem, because I was getting a low water bill, and you could have brought it to our attention."
Morrison said no one has to worry about their water getting shut off, and wants residents to know the city will work with anyone who has a problem with their water bill.
Friday, May 24 2013 3:18 PM EDT2013-05-24 19:18:43 GMT
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