Presentation of problems, solutions 2-3 years down the road for - CBS46 News

Presentation of problems, solutions 2-3 years down the road for DeKalb Water customers

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(Source: MGN) (Source: MGN)

DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond predicted there was no short fix for the county's water billing issues.

“I’m responsible for correcting it,” Thurmond said.

Thurmond said during a meeting on Thursday morning that he and his staff believe the process will take 2-3 years to complete. He highlighted improperly installed meters, manufacturer defects, and a billing system which is more than 15-years-old.  In addition, the administrations investigation into the issue identified a bad employee contributing to the problem.

“There is evidence to suggest that prior to determination of this employee more than 10,000 readings may have been falsified,” Thurmond said.  “We have suffered and we have literally been victimized by systemic deficits in leadership, management and oversight."

Employees were told to estimate bills of customers who made complaints – a customary practice – but they may have over-relied on that process. Those same employees were underpaid and some departments, specifically meter readers.

In the interim of that 2-3 year process, those with high water bills are asking, now what? Thurmond encouraged residents to dispute their bills. There is a third party officer that will be added to help review disputes.

“There was a suggested plan to implement a new CRM system, a new billing system. The time line for that was 2 years.  So what happens in the interim?  That’s what we hoped to hear today,” Water customer Lisa Campbell Harper said.

“Now I think everyone is waiting with bated breath with what are you going to do right now to provide some relief,” Water Customer Star McKenzie said.

There is also the issue of 37,000 bills left "quarantined" through the past year that were questionable, and not sent to people since September.

Those people will start this year fresh on billing and the 37,000 bills to be reviewed to see what trends can be learned. The county wasn't ready to make a determination now on whether they would eventually want that money back.

“There are no short term immediate fixes for this problem.  It’s too complicated and it’s too multifaceted,” Thurmond said.

CBS46 has covered many reports of inaccurate water bills in the county and has covered the issue extensively.

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