DeKalb County’s water billing issues have been described by residents as unlawful, irresponsible and a crisis, but officials with the county say the billing cycle has returned to “normal.”
March 20, the county released a statement saying that all 194,000 customers had been returned to a normal billing cycle. For months, the county held bills for some water and sewer customers in an effort to validate the bills’ accuracy.
DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond said approximately 1,300 bills will be released the week of March 19.
According to county officials, 253 of the 37,000 previously held bills are still in the dispute process.
“Resolving the problems associated with the water billing crisis is a major step toward restoring public trust and rebuilding confidence in our billing process,” said Thurmond.
“Less than 1 percent of customers who had bills held remain in dispute with the county. That is significant progress.”
The 37,000 bills were held in December of 2016 when Thurmond addressed longstanding issues with the water billing process.
During a public meeting titled the “New Day Project,” Thurmond outlined water billing issues such as inaccurate billing and meter readings, meters malfunctioning, understaffed customer service reps and field technicians being unable to verify the accuracy of meters.
According to county officials, DeKalb increased the watershed department’s call center staffing and reduced the average customer service wait times by more than four minutes.
As of February 2018, the county had 49 water billing call center staff members compared with 37 in July of 2017.
County officials said “Phase II” of restoring the public’s trust in the water billing system will focus on the system’s management and oversight. The county plans to complete the installation of an electronic billing system, replace aging water meters and address the unpaid portions of formerly held bills.
“There will be no surprises for DeKalb water bill customers,” Thurmond said. “Prior to any final decisions about unpaid portions of previously held bills, I will present a plan of action to a public meeting of the Board of Commissioners.”
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