Louise Gritmon still is in disbelief over a one-month water bill for more than $3,300.
Pasco County charged Gritmon for using more than 614,000 gallons of water over 18 days in the July 2014 billing period when her house was vacant.
That never happened, Gritmon said.
And she has two plumbers, an engineer and a manufacturer who can back up her assertion that the amount of water measured by the county couldn’t physically go through her pipes in the time they say.
The county has disputed her claims.
“I just want my bill zeroed out to what it should be,” Gritmon said.
She will have to wait a bit longer to find out if the county will do that, but on Aug. 18, Gritmon had reason to hope.
An eight-month audit ordered by Pasco County Clerk & Comptroller Paula O’Neil, and completed by her inspector general’s office, found deficiencies in the county’s meter reading and billing procedures. Software glitches in the county’s automated system, inaccessible meters, inconsistent readings and alerts that were ignored got most of the blame.
When the meters were tested, however, they were found to be functioning properly.
Gritmon took her complaint to the media last summer, and soon after, the county was deluged by other customers who had similar complaints about overbilling.
The audit began in October 2014 and looked at water bills issued between June 1, 2014, and April 15, 2015.
As a result, the county will give closer scrutiny to 317 of 337 customer complaints among its more than 93,000 accounts. The audit found those accounts, including Gritmon’s, had from one to six bills that exceeded 120 percent of the annual average.
Some residents could receive credits or have outstanding charges removed from their bills. Or, the county could determine that the fees are correct.
In some cases, customers already have received credits, said Pasco County Administrator Michele Baker.
In a press release issued Aug. 21, county officials said the goal is to apply credits, if needed, by mid-September.
The county will hire a consultant to assist in correcting overall problems. Temporary staff members will be hired as well. Baker has given the department until March 25 to implement the audit’s recommendations.
“We’re recommending that they (accounts) be reviewed individually to determine if constant flow is the problem, or what the problem is,” said O’Neil.
Some recommended changes in operations at the water department have been implemented, and more are on the way.
One recommendation is to flag accounts with exceptionally high charges for reviews before bills are mailed to customers.
The issues raised in the audit are “glaring and concerning,” said Pasco County Chairman Ted Schrader. “We can do better, and we’re going to make every attempt to do better for our utility customers.”
Published August 26, 2015