PASCO COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Pasco County commissioners took a big step Tuesday toward helping customers with high water bills, as first uncovered by an 8 On Your Side investigation. The commission voted to move forward with a new county ordinance, which would give utilities officials the power to lower unexplained high water bills.
The utilities department presented a proposed ordinance to lower unexplained water usage bills at 50,000 gallons. But commissioners thought that was not enough. They voted to amend the ordinance to cap unexplained usage at 20,000 gallons.
Our investigation started a year ago and lead to hundreds of complaints from customers who insist they were billed for water they never used. An inspectors general audit confirmed big problems within the department. Utilities officials still don’t agree that all of the complaints are valid, but they are now admitting some faults, including how officials handled the situation.
“We sincerely apologize,” said Bruce Kennedy, head of Pasco Utilities.
The woman’s bill that kicked off the investigation would be dramatically lowered under this ordinance. The original bill was more than $3,300. It was for 614,000 gallons of water. Under the ordinance, her bill would drop to $125.
But Louise Gritmon is still not happy. She said officials continue to insist she used all of that water, even though plumbers agree she could not have possibly used that much. “People all over the country are laughing at these officials,” Gritmon said.
Gritmon said she is thankful the commissioners have stepped up to help but she is undecided as to whether she will pay even the lower amount. Meanwhile, utilities officials are working with an outside consultant to fix other billing issues. Officials are currently reviewing hundreds of complaints and considering bill adjustments.
Even so, complaints from frustrated customers continue to trickle in to 8 On Your Side. Many complain of sporadic jobs. Profiles for their meters show normal usage and then hundreds of gallons of water flowing each hour – for days on end.