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5,000 held water bills in DeKalb to go out Aug. 14

DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond has approved the release of approximately 5,000 water and sewer bills that have been held for months due to “unverified billing data.” The bills will be mailed beginning Aug. 14.

The July/August 2017 monthly or bi-monthly bills are based on actual meter readings.

“We are making significant progress as we continue to work to restore trust and integrity to the water billing system by reducing the number of held bills,” Thurmond said in release this morning (Aug. 1).

The upcoming mailing brings the total release of held bills to 13,000 since April 2017, when 8,000 customers received their first bill in several months and resumed normal billing.

In September 2016, DeKalb County held approximately 37,000 of the county’s 194,000 water and sewer accounts because their accuracy could not be independently verified.

Held bills will not be assessed late fees or other penalties for late payment. Extended payment terms only will be available for the held bills. Any account balance that was due prior to September 2016 will still be due and will carry forward on the current bill.

Customers who need an extension to pay their bills should contact the Utility Customer Operations Center at 774 Jordan Lane in Decatur, or call 404-378-4475 to speak with a customer service representative.

 

Letter from

Michael L. Thurmond

Chief Executive Officer, DeKalb County

August 2017

 

Dear Valued Customer,

 

Enclosed with this letter is the first DeKalb County water and sewer bill you have received in several months. Your July/August 2017 (monthly or bi-monthly) bill is based on your actual reading.

 

On behalf of your government, I apologize for any inconvenience and frustration you may have experienced due to failures in our water and sewer billing process.

 

Systemic problems ranging from inadequate planning, staffing and training to inefficient billing software, defective water meters and insufficient communication have eroded customer confidence. Although the majority of our 194,000 accounts have not been affected, the issuance of large numbers of inaccurate water bills is embarrassing and unacceptable. Please be assured that correcting these problems and providing exceptional customer service is the top priority of my administration.

 

Beginning the week of Aug. 14, approximately 5,000 customers will begin receiving their July statement. These specific accounts will resume normal billing.

 

In September 2016, staff members were instructed not to mail bills that could not be independently verified as being accurate. Our inability to verify the accuracy of the 37,000 “held” water and sewer bills resulted in thousands of customers not receiving a bill since that date. Customer concerns associated with the failure to mail these bills was compounded by the absence of clarifying information and confusing explanations.

 

Please be advised that “held” bills will not be mailed until the root causes of billing inaccuracies have been identified and corrected. Customers whose bills have been “held” will not be penalized. When “held” bills are released, charges will be based upon the appropriate tiered rate schedule. Upon request, extended payment terms with no late fees will be available for the “held” bills only.

 

On Feb. 28, 2017, the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners approved my recommendation to fund the New Day Project. This initiative is a comprehensive 90-day strategy that will reduce errors associated with tracking of meter inventory, meter installation, meter reading and billing. Greater emphasis will be placed on improving customer service and maintaining efficient staffing levels. For more information regarding the New Day Project, please visit www.dekalbcountyga.gov/waterbilling.

 

Again, please accept my sincere apologies for any inconveniences you may have suffered. We have a lot of work to do. Our progress toward a resolution to this crisis will be communicated through various media and posted on the DeKalb County government website. We appreciate your patience as we work to restore customer confidence in our water and sewer billing system. Sincerely,

 

Michael L. Thurmond

Chief Executive Officer, DeKalb County

 

 

 

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