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Council members speak at community meeting on water billing issues

Posted at 10:16 PM, Oct 04, 2018

Rev. Adam Carrington of Brooks AME Worship Center says some people who attend his church have approached him with utility bills as high as $1,633. The complaints prompted him to host a community meeting at his church to talk about the ongoing issues with charges for water rates.

“The city shouldn’t charge the residents for something that they have neglected,” Carrington said.

As KRIS 6 News has previously reported, the city has admitted to a number of issues that have led to these errors, including problems with the billing software and rate changes for water and wastewater. Still, many in attendance at Thursday evening’s meeting wondered why city staff did not alert the public when the issues were first discovered.

Tina Butler, who says she hired a plumber after receiving an inflated utility bill, said, “Why is that the community going to the council when they had known all along that there was a snafu? And if you have a snafu, then definitely stop billing us.”

Butler said she believes that communication and customer service need to be improved with city staff handling these customers, saying that many times residents are challenged when they question the amount of their bills.

The city says it’s now taking steps to lighten the burden on customers with those high bills.

“We have discontinued turning off customers for non-payment since last week, September 26th, so that’s not an issue going forward,” said Constance Sanchez, the city’s director of finance.

There are also more people staffing the city call center to handle these disputes. Council members came with forms in hand at Thursday’s meeting to personally deliver some of that information directly to staff.

‘We did not want to come tonight without having something that they could do and that we could promise them we could help get their information to the city,” at-large council member Debbie Lindsey-Opel said.

“We’re looking to give the citizens some relief .. in order to make things right,” added Rudy Garza, council representative for District 5.

All council members who attended the meeting assured the residents there that they will keep the pressure up to fix these billing issues.

A representative from Infor, the company that runs the billing software, is in town now, with another will arrive on Monday. They’re expected to brief council on their findings at Tuesday’s meeting.