City making progress in recent water bill controversy

City making progress in recent water bill controversy

Amarillo, TX - Weeks after several Amarillo residents saw a dramatic increase in their water bills, the city is now issuing compensation for their mistake.

The recent water bill problem is far from over, as the city continues to work with angry and confused customers daily. Despite this, the city says they have made significant progress in making customers happy. 

As of June 1st until Wednesday of last week, 3,917 customers have had credits added to their water accounts.

"The total adjustments were $233,000. It's about $60 average," said Assistant City Manager, Michelle Bonner.

The city is issuing credits in different ways. If a customer hasn't paid their bill yet, the city will reduce the bill to the correct amount.

"If they're set up on a bank draft, as long as we get that credit before it drafts, it will draft the right amount. If the credit comes after, it goes against the next month's bill," said Bonner.

Certain steps lead the city into into this mess. The first was firing 7 of its 10 of its meter readers making them short staffed, the city's bill estimations in April were too low, and the way the city estimated the month of May was based on the previous year, rather than of previous months.

Bonner says major changes have been made in these areas. The city is now fully staffed on meters and the way the city estimates is more fair.

"If we have to estimate an account, hopefully that will be very few, but we're looking at a three month average," said Bonner.

All of the city's paid water bills goes toward the city's water and sewage system helping to get water into homes and businesses.

It is not clear how much this mistake cost the city, but Bonner says city's additional expense was paying over-time to employees working to fix the problem.

So far, the only employee discipline for this mistake has been last week's transfer of the billing manager. With some new changes in place, city officials are confident something like this won't happen again.

"Our customers can be confident that when they get their bill it's correct. The number one thing for us to do that is to make sure that we're not estimating those bills," said Bonner.

Bonner says customers will see a notice on their bills from now on that says if their meter was estimated or if it was actually read.

If you're still concerned over your water bill, contact the city's Utility Billing Department at 378-4272 or email them at waterbill@amarillo.gov