Flint, Michigan: Problems with new computer system spark water bill complaints

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Water bills spark reaction Council orders old averages used

Tuesday, January 25, 2000

By Marlon Vaughn


FLINT - Besieged by residents' complaints about inaccurate water bills, the City Council on Monday passed a resolution requiring the water department to charge customers the average they paid more than two years ago. Many of Flint's more than 40,000 residential water users have been receiving bills based on estimated use or receiving their bills weeks late because of problems linked to new computer software used for the water billing system. The city has said the problems are close to being solved. The council resolution, sponsored by 4th Ward Councilwoman Peggy R. Cook, requires that water charges be based on the average that customers paid from June 1 through Dec. 31, 1997, before the city started estimating bills. The rule would apply to bills sent out beginning next month, and would remain in effect until the city demonstrate it can provide accurate water meter readings, according to the resolution. It also would require that any residential or business water customer who was billed more than that average during 1999 receive a credit. City Council President Ed Taylor said he and other council members are taking the heat for the water billing problems, even though the administration is responsible for the water department. "I don't think council ... should be getting blamed," Taylor said. "If this (resolution) can make the difference, let it make the difference." City Administrator David H. Ready warned council members that the resolution could end up causing more problems. Some people could end up paying higher water bills because their water usage was higher in 1997, he said. "Tell me what to do when I'm overbilling them for water they didn't use," Ready said. City Councilman Matt Schlinker, who represents the 7th ward, said he sympathized with water department employees. The City Council, however, needed to do something, he said. "We just want to make sure we can address the issue for the residents out there whose bills are all screwed up," he said. Marlon Vaughn covers Flint city government, neighborhoods and social services. He can be reached at (810) 766-6324.

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-- Carl Jenkins (Somewherepress@aol.com), January 25, 2000

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