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Water Bill Dispute Resolution

03/12/18 3:58 pm

Dispute Resolution Roadmap

If you are having water billing issues please know that you are not alone. Thousands

of residents have received and disputed inaccurate bills.

See the Roadmap below created by fellow Dekalb residents to help you navigate the Dispute Process. Until the County develops and enforces Standard Operating Procedures for Billing you can use this step by step guide to resolve your disputes.

Please remember to check on your friends and neighbors and share this information with them. Do they know about the billing crisis? Do they know about the dispute process? Do they need help with high bills, no bills,etc? 

1. If you have a Facebook account join Unbelievable Dekalb Water Bills, a group created by Dekalb resident and Citizen Advisory Board member, Star McKenzie. The group consists of more than 3k Dekalb residents who share advice, resources and updates regarding the water billing crisis.

 2. Call the Customer Assurance Team at 404-371-3000 and tell the Rep you need to open an official dispute. Make sure you are talking to the Customer Assurance Team. Other departments (such as Customer Service) may answer your call but they will not initiate the dispute process. If you are told you cannot dispute your bill, note the name of the Rep and ask to speak to their Supervisor. All residents have the right to dispute bills that they think are inaccurate.

 

Call back or visit the billing office (774 Jordan Lane Suite 200. Decatur, GA 30033) after a few weeks to confirm your account is marked "in dispute." 

 

You will be assigned a case manager who will review your dispute and serve as your contact. You will be asked to pay an average amount while your account is reviewed. A tech will be sent out to check if your meter is working properly. You can request to be notified when the tech is scheduled to visit.

 

3. Keep detailed notes of interactions with the Customer Assurance team. Record all phone conversations with the county (you can use a phone app, or put the phone on speaker and use a computer, tablet or audio recorder to record the call). At a minimum, note who said what and when. Keep a record of missed appointments and days since the last contact. Notes will help you document the facts and keep the narrative accurate.

4. The burden of proving your bill is wrong is unfortunately going to be on your shoulders. Many residents have found that doing their own research helped greatly with getting a positive resolution.

 

Locate, look at and photograph your meter regularly. Keep a record of your readings (photos, clipboard, file). The file section of the Facebook group has a file called "meter 101" with some useful tips:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/518154198345715/files/

Find out how your billed usage compares to other families of the same size. A rough rule of thumb is 60 to 100 gal a day per person depending on habits. Once you have your own readings for one cycle (30 or 60 days) worth of usage, you can use the bill calculator to check what your bill should be:

http://www.millertechnicalservices.com/DekalbWater/DekalbCalc.html 

 

5. If you receive a bill covering more than one cycle check the billing tiers. Request one bill per cycle. Lumping consumption will kick a lot of your usage up to a higher priced tier, artificially inflating your bill:

https://www.dekalbcountyga.gov/sites/default/files/user334/2016%20Rate%20Sheet%20corrected%20on%20112816v2.pdf

6. If you do not feel you are getting a fair or timely resolution or if your bill is more than 3x the average amount, email CEO Thurmond at MLThurmond@dekalbcountyga.gov and Cc Zach Williams at zlwilliams@dekalbcountyga.gov, Antrameka Knight at alknight@dekalbcountyga.gov and your District Commissioner (See Step 7). You should also call CEO Thurmond’s office at 404.987.9447.

 

Provide your name, Account number and any billing issue details you have noted—this is where your notes and records get important. Insist that your case be escalated. Report any staff that you found to be inadequate or who provided false or misleading information.

 

7.  To find your Commissioner you need to know your County district:
https://www.dekalbcountyga.gov/sites/default/files/BOCMap.pdf 

 

https://gis.dekalbcountyga.gov/ElectionPollingPlace/

 

Click on the magnifying glass on top, enter your address, Click on "Representatives" tab, and scroll right until you get to your County district. Here you can find your County Commissioner and the Water Billing Citizen's Advisory Board member who represents you.

District 1 Nancy Jester - staff: Mike Davis, Jeff Long 404-371-2844 njester@dekalbcountyga.gov
CAB member Gaye Stathis

District 2 Jeff Rader - staff: Caroline Enloe 404-371-2863 jrader@dekalbcountyga.gov
CAB member Star McKenzie

District 3 Larry Johnson - staff: Colet Odenigbo, LaShun Atwaters 404-371-2988 larryjohnson@dekalbcountyga.gov
CAB member Ann Brown

District 4 Steve Bradshaw - staff: Alesia Brooks, Robin Detar 404-371-4907 srbradshaw@dekalbcountyga.gov
CAB member Carol H. Holloway

District 5  Mereda Davis Johnson - staff: Demetrius McCoy, Demetrius Pinkett 404-371-2159 mdjohnson@dekalbcountyga.gov
CAB member Mary Pat Hector

Super District 6 Kathie Gannon - staff: Kelly Cato, Davis Fox 404-371-4909 kgannon@dekalbcountyga.gov CAB member David Clark

 

Super District 7 Gregory Adams - staff: Sonia Gilbert, Karren Manuel 404-371-2899 GregoryAdams@dekalbcountyga.gov CAB member Sandy Johnson

 

CAB member for the CEO, Josephine Handy-Sewell
https://www.dekalbcountyga.gov/board-commissioners/contact-us

9. Stay persistent and do not take no for an answer. If information strikes you as improbable or illogical then report it to your Commissioner and CEO Thurmond. Many improvements the county is planning to implement to reduce the number of wrong bills will take years until they take effect. Watching your meter, whether you have not had a high bill yet or got a dispute resolved in the past, will give you the means to prevent or help quickly resolve future high bills.

10. Attend a Water Billing Advisory Board meeting or a BOC meeting to present your case and demand improvement.

 

The Water Billing Advisory Board meets the 4th Thursday of every month from 12pm-2pm at 4572 Memorial Dr Training Room A Decatur GA 30032.

 

Important Tips

Residents have reported that many Customer Assurance Reps have misrepresented the facts. Here are some important tips to know:

• You can dispute bills up to two years back even if you have already paid them.

• You can dispute bills that you believe are higher than they should be. A payment plan isn't your only option. You're likely talking to the wrong person. Have data like average consumption, family size, consumption history and billing cycle available to support your claim. Argue gallons not dollars.

• You don't have to call a plumber before a technician has visited and checked your meter. You can do a couple of simple leak tests yourself to prevent unnecessary plumber visits.

• While your account is marked in dispute they cannot turn off your water. If someone threatens to turn off your water ask if your dispute is still active. Tell the Rep that the Moratorium on cut-offs is still in effect. Email Thurmond and your Commissioner with the name of the employee issuing the threat and the date it happened.

• If you were promised someone would call you and no one did, ask to escalate your dispute. If they refuse, email Thurmond and your Commissioners. Name names. State dates.

• Your dispute isn't "closed" until you say so. Don't give silent consent. Ask that a dispute closed without a satisfactory resolution be reopened.

• The meter reading numbers may be right but your billed consumption might be ten times as high because of a known billing error (wrong multiplier).

• Leaks don't seal themselves. If you have a billing spike one cycle but your bill is back to normal the next cycle, then a leak is a highly unlikely explanation.

• Someone is/was stealing your water is unlikely. Ask that your dispute be escalated and gather proof to fight your case.

• If your bills were held for a couple of cycles and you received back bills covering those cycles without having asked to receive your bills, contact your County Commissioner.

• Your  meter is not new if you find an unreadable meter with a dial in your meter box.

• iPerls manufactured before 2014 are not reliable.  Meter readings may not really represent your usage.

• Your bills may have been guesstimated for a long time. A meter in pieces is unlikely to have been read regularly.

• If you used to be billed every two months but now receive monthly bills and do not have a radio read meter, contact Watershed.

• While you are in dispute and paying your average per cycle, no late fees should pile up. Complain and escalate your dispute if you find late fees added.

Go back

(Commissioner Jeff Rader represents District Two on DeKalb County's Board of Commissioners. He was reelected in November of 2010 for another four-year term.)

Please encourage your neighbors to sign up for my e-mail updates. Go to my web site, www.commissionerrader.com, and click on the "news signup" link at the bottom.