After residents voiced concerns about DeKalb County CEO Mike Thurmond not keeping them informed about water meter and billing issues, Thurmond held a “new day project” meeting Feb. 23 to address the county’s “most critical crisis.”
Thurmond, who held the meeting in Maloof Auditorium, said solving water billing issues through accurate water meters should be viewed as the number one priority of the administration.
Thurmond displayed a power-point presentation during the meeting to outline the major issues of the water billing system.
According to information provided by the county, 40,000 of the 70,000 iPerl meters installed over the last five years are at risk of malfunction. Thurmond said a county employee was also identified and fired for falsifying data. In 2016, Thurmond said there were documented cases of “curbing” by at least one meter reader.
Thurmond defined curbing as reading a meter without verifying consumption and instead, a meter reader “sits on the curb” to manually enter false data into the record. One county employee was fired due to curbing, but Thurmond said more than 10,000 readings may have been falsified.
“It was a very egregious act to be quite honest with you,” Thurmond said during a brief interview with The Champion after the meeting. “An employee was terminated from employment with the county and what we’re going to do, going forward, is create more checks and balances to protect us from that type of behavior if it presents itself.”
Whether the county will seek legal action against the former employee is undetermined at this time, Thurmond said.
Since 2007, the rate of the average bi-monthly water/sewer bill in DeKalb County increased 212 percent. In 2007, the average combined bi-monthly amount for water and sewer services in the county was $74.33. That number increased to $232.10 in 2016.
In part, the problem is due to underpaid and understaffed meter readers, according to Thurmond. He said the meter readers also have a lack of daily supervision and are not properly trained.
Thurmond said a long-term solution could take two to three years to rectify.
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