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City officials examining possibility of undoing water rate change

Posted at 6:26 PM, Sep 26, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-26 20:54:35-04

City officials are tired of complaints about water bills.  Their solution — go back to the way things were and restructure the rates again.

In January, the city went from “winter average” billing to “actual use.” At the time they said any change in bills would be negligible, but nine months later that’s far from the case.

“It was kind of a perfect storm,” said Corpus Christi Mayor Joe McComb.  “We changed the rates, which everybody felt very legitimately were done, and then all of a sudden we discovered a problem with the computer.”

That perfect storm has been anything but for city water customers.  Software glitches caused some customers to be overcharged, others undercharged.

“We’ve got to get this fixed, and we’ve got to get it fixed now,” said McComb, who has experienced these issues first hand.

McComb estimates he uses between 20,000 and 35,000 gallons of water monthly.

“There was one cycle I got billed for 4,000 gallons of water, “ said McComb.  “I said there’s just something dramatically wrong here.”

He’s not the only one.  Unhappy water customers have flooded city call centers with complaints.

“We had 22,000 calls last month alone,” interim City Manager Keith Selman told the city council Tuesday.

So many calls, officials plan to move 10 to 20 city employees to the call center from other departments to handle the volume.

Another issue, how to take care of customers who’ve already paid too much?

“We’re going to look at options that are available to either staff or the city council to reconcile some of these issues,” said Selman.

Also, McComb wants call center operators to stop telling customers to hire a plumber to look for leaks.

“We need to acknowledge we’ve got a problem, and it’s our problem,” said McComb.  “And so we’re gonna fix it.”

McComb and Selman have a conference call with representatives from Infor, the company that handles the city’s utility bills, set for Friday.  Depending on how that call goes, McComb says the city may have grounds to terminate the contract with Infor about 18 months early.