Better Call Behnken: Pinellas County Utilities sent woman credit for fixed leak, meant for another customer

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Whitney Beane’s normal water usage ranges between seven to 12 gallons for each two-month cycle. Imagine the shock and fear when it jumped to 30 gallons.

She was stuck with a $385 bill.

She called Pinellas County Utilities right away to find out what was going on. She said she was told she could receive a credit if she proved she hired a plumber to fix a leak. She did, and the plumber found and repaired a small leak under her home.

She submitted an application for a credit and received three separate letters notifying her of three separate credits. One for $125.52 for January, one for $122.27 for February and one for $15.04 for March.

When the bill came, only one of the three credits showed up. She called customer service for answers.

“They told me they don’t have a copy of this letter they sent me,” Beane said. “I took it down there to them, and they told me they won’t honor it, it was a mistake.”

A mistake? But, it’s in writing.

Beane called 8 On Your Side for answers about what happened.

County spokesman Josh Boatright confirms a county employee did make a mistake. The $122 credit was supposed to go to another customer. Somehow, that person’s letter was sent to Beane instead, with her account number and address on the letter.

Boatright says he feels bad for the let down and knows the mistake caused Beane more frustration, but he explains that if the county gave her another credit that she is not owed, it would be taxpayers who would have to foot that bill.

The bottom line, he said, is Beane really did have a leak and the credit is based on a formula that deducts sewage usage from the bill when there is a leak.

Boatright sent this statement:

“Pinellas County Utilities strives to exceed customer expectations by providing billing credits in cases where our customers experience a plumbing leak that creates an excessive amount of usage above their normal consumption. This customer received two credits to her account after her leak was repaired of $125.52 and $15.04. These credits are based on the excessive use recorded during the time of the leak above the customers’ average usage. We have fully credited the customer for the period of her leak. 

The customer received an additional letter in error, which was misaddressed to her noting another credit, however, this credit was never applied to her account as it was intended for another customer. We regret this error and our staff explained this situation to the customer by phone.”

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