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Water woes for DeKalb residents

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DeKalb County resident and founder of the Facebook group Unbelievable DeKalb Water Bills Star McKenzie said she understands DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond inherited a mess. However, the mother of two said it’s time for DeKalb residents to get answers.

 According to county officials, Thurmond plans to hold a public meeting April 5 to address what he called a “water billing crisis” in DeKalb County.

 McKenzie said residents have heard what the problem is, but now they’re ready to hear solutions.

 “People are unsure about their bills or what the status is with billing because that’s what everyone is wondering. Most people haven’t gotten a bill since October,” McKenzie said. “I think that the community at large is just waiting for the other foot to drop. They want to know where their bill is and how much it’s going to be. Is it going to be an affordable amount that they can handle, or will they be in the same situation they were in before?”

 McKenzie, whose Facebook group now has more than 2,400 members, said she’s also disappointed that the county doesn’t seem to be advertising the event to the public.

 In an email exchange between McKenzie and Thurmond’s chief of staff La’Keitha Carlos obtained by The Champion, Carlos outlines some of the steps the CEO has made to be more transparent with residents.

 According to a DeKalb County spokesperson, the county plans to send a press release informing the public of the event and will also advertise the event on the county’s official website. The meeting will also be streamed live on DCTV.

 “On Feb. 23, the CEO presented The New Day Project to the Board of Commissioners and the public, rolling out a short- and long-term strategy for regaining trust of customers and rectifying the billing issues plaguing our citizens. Five days later, on Feb. 28, the CEO presented budget amendments to specifically address the water billing issues and presented a 90-day plan for implementation,” Carlos wrote in the email. “The CEO has committed to making updates to the public, giving the opportunity for feedback and questions, at the end of each 30-day segment. The first update will be on April 5 at 6:30 p.m. at Maloof Auditorium.”

 On Feb. 28, Thurmond urged commissioners to approve the 2017 budget, which includes $1.5 million to address billing issues.

 Currently, the county has 37,000 held water bills and plans to send its first batch of bills the week of April 10. Between 7,000 and 9,000 bills will be released. County officials were unsure of a timeline for further bills to be released.

 “The main thing we understand is that [the CEO] inherited a big mess. We get that. We want to be patient and be helpful anyway we can, but one thing they have to start doing is communicating with us to let us know what’s going on,” McKenzie said. “Even if you don’t know what the plan is, let us know you’re working on it.”

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