Residents bring lineup of FATHOM account complaints to council
By LYNETTE SOWELL
Tuesday night’s citizens’ forum during the Copperas Cove city council meeting had a lineup of at least five residents bringing complaints about their utility accounts to the council.
First was Debra Locklear of 310 Texas St., who expressed her concern at being billed for more than 50,000 gallons of water. There are two in her household and Locklear said their bills have been “off the charts” since the new system took over. In checking with neighbors, they too have received bills in excess of 50,000 gallons of usage.
“Something is not right with this system. Someone needs to look into it.”
Locklear was followed by her neighbor Don Barningham at 402 Texas St., who said he received a bill for 56,600 gallons. Barningham said on the other side of Locklear, that neighbor was billed for 70,000 gallons, and the neighbor on the other side of him was billed for 43,000, with only two people living in that house. Another neighbor around the corner, a widow, told Barningham her bill has gone up threefold.
“I called the number and was told to check my and see if my neighbor maybe was using my water,” he said, adding that he was suggested to hire a plumber to verify he didn’t have a leak.
“The whole street’s got a leak,” Barningham. “We can’t afford this. There is definitely something wrong with the meters.”
Irene Galiana has lived at 505 Myra Lou for 35 years, told the council they need to really get out there and talk to the people. She said she and her husband have been “patiently waiting for the kinks to get worked out.”
However, she said they just received their third double bill and ending meter reading from one bill was not being the same beginning reading on the following bill.
“I am telling you, citizens out there will not come forward and are having a hard time paying the water bill,” Galiana said.
Rose Brimhall at 910 Willowbrook St. said she didn’t want the senior citizen discount being taken away, and that she thinks the decision to choose FATHOM should have gone to a city wide vote, that she didn’t like the utilities being outsourced.
Charles Schneck at 323 Barber Dr. said his bill stated he used 16,000 gallons by himself and that he only waters his lawn “once in a great while.” He called last week and the meter was checked, but according to him the meter said he only used 8,000 gallons, but if that was the case, he didn’t understand why his bill was for 16,000. He said his wife passed away two months ago, and over the past three months, his bill was 3,000, 5,000, and 6,000 gallons.
Robert Smith didn’t have a complaint regarding FATHOM, per se, but objects to the city only partially reimbursing him for 10 years’ worth of overpayment for a second trash can. Smith explained that back in 2006, he and his wife requested an extra trash container which they had for two months. The Solid Waste Department picked up the trash container, but the Smiths were still billed for it for the 10 years following. Smith said they didn’t realize their bill continued to include the extra trashcan charge until the account changeover to FATHOM.
Smith asked that the city council “do the right thing” by reimbursing him for the full amount. According to the city attorney, who cited Section 16.004 of the Civil Practice Remedies Code, the city only had to reimburse no more than four years’ worth of those payments. The city sent Smith a check for $638.04, but Smith asked that the council approve reimbursing him $2,097.71.
At the conclusion of the council meeting, councilman George Duncan called for a workshop to discuss the issues that have been brought up.
“Indications are there that there’s something there, don’t know what it is, maybe we can find out, but I think it should be done in an open session before the council,” Duncan said.
Also, councilman Jay Manning asked for a report from June to the present from the city’s “master” water meter that records how much water the city is receiving.
City manager Andrea Gardner told the council that she has noted each of the citizens and their addresses and will follow up with them personally. As far as Smith’s concern with the reimbursement, Gardner said she would provide the council with information based on city records and the council could determine if it wanted to discuss it on a future agenda.
She added that at the next council workshop on September 19, there will be a report on capital project updates and that FATHOM representatives will be present at that meeting.