Clerical error causes 1,452 Jackson water customers to see spike in bills

Published: Jul. 22, 2022 at 6:42 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - When Scott Crawford received his latest bill, he thought it was happening again – a repeat of the Siemens debacle when customers across the city reported receiving outrageous bills due to faulty meters.

Crawford is one of tens of thousands of customers who recently had a new meter installed as part of Jackson’s contract with Sustainability Partners.

His latest bill was for $172, about $120 higher than what he normally pays each month for water and garbage collections.

The Fondren resident thought the meter was to blame. “Because this all happened, coincidentally, with the new water meters, it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that the [error] has to do with the new meters,” he said. “But this time, thankfully, it was just a coincidence.”

In all, 1,452 customers across the city received incorrect bills due to a clerical error at the Water Sewer Billing Administration office.

City leaders held a press conference Friday to discuss the problem.

Mike Secor, a program manager for WSBA, said the error occurred when a vendor was running a report.

“The analyst was looking at settings for the report and changed it from cubic feet to gallons, thinking it would only affect the report,” he said.

“They noticed the error on Tuesday, July 5, and set it back to cubic feet. What they did not realize at the time was that did it not only affect the way the report was generated, but how the bills were being affected,” Secor said.

Analysts run the reports each month to determine what to charge the city for meter services. The meters are being installed as part of an agreement with Sustainability Partners. Jackson pays SP a fee for each meter installed.

The meters are being installed to replace the devices put in as part of the Siemens contract. Jackson brought on that firm about a decade ago to overhaul its billing system and replace existing meters with new electronic ones.

Early on during the Siemens work, customers reported that they were getting incorrect bills. It turned out that in some cases the wrong meters had been installed, causing residents to be charged for gallons used rather than cubic feet.

Unlike last time, the problem this time was not caused by faulty meters, but an analyst’s mistake.

Customers began reporting their higher-than-usual bills this week.

The city said customers would be reimbursed or credited for the amounts they overpaid.

For his part, Secor told the press that changes were made to the system to prevent the error from happening again.

Crawford said he’s hopeful the city will follow through on its promise to credit accounts or reimburse customers.

“$172 for somebody else might overdraft their account. I hope they follow through and do that,” he said. “Thankfully, I’ve got the money in the bank to cover it, so it won’t bounce.”

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