DeKalb’s water billing crisis nears end

March 23, 20183min1220
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DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond said county officials have finished reviewing the final batch of “held” water bills, returning most of the 37,000 held bills to a normal billing cycle. Only 253 bills are now in the dispute process, Thurmond said.

“Resolving the problems associated with the water billing crisis is a major step toward restoring public trust and rebuilding confidence in our billing process,” said Thurmond. “Less than one percent of customers who had bills held remain in dispute with the county. That is significant progress.”

Last year, Thurmond initiated the New Day Project to resolve the county’s longstanding water billing crisis after normal billing was suspended in December 2016 for approximately 37,000 of the county’s 194,000 water and sewer customers.

The New Day Project identified problems in the water billing process that led to inaccurate billing and meter readings, and a systemic failure of leadership, management and oversight. Held bills were released in phases after completing a thorough independent verification process that included manually reviewing customer accounts and field validation of water meters.

With support from the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners, the New Day Project made significant water billing improvements in staffing, customer service and technology. This year, the county increased call center staffing and reduced average customer service wait times by more than four minutes. A verification process to independently expedite the review of customer accounts, water consumption and billing data was also created and the county started the process of replacing aging and defective water meters and implementing a new utility billing system.

“I want to thank the board of commissioners, and a dedicated, cross-departmental group of employees for coming together over the past fifteen months and working tirelessly to solve these complex and frustrating issues,” said Thurmond.

Thurmond said the county will next focus on strengthening management and oversight, streamlining organizational alignment, completing the installation of a state-of-the-art electronic billing system, replacing aging water meters and addressing the unpaid portion of formerly held bills.

Customers with held water bills will not be penalized for county errors, officials said. For more information about water billing, customers are encouraged to call 404-378-4475.

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