.@chrismalone3 says his office is studying issue of high water rates for @RaleighGov utilities customers living in his district. Says citizens are being treated unequally. #WakeCountyWaterWars #ABC11 pic.twitter.com/jCuimqktC2— Andrea Blanford (@AndreaABC11) March 27, 2018
The issue surfaced in late 2017 when an audit of the City of Raleigh Public Utilities Department discovered a decade-old coding error that caused customers living in unincorporated neighborhoods near Wake Forest to be charged incorrectly.
The city adjusted the rates for hundreds of homes outside the city limits and consequently, residents of the Jones Dairy Farm and Willow Deer subdivisions saw their water bills double in March.
Sample average bills showed the differences being roughly $60 inside the city limits and $120 for customers in unincorporated areas.
Representative Chris Malone told ABC11 his office is studying the issue to see whether there's a resolution that could benefit the people he serves.
The lawmaker took to Twitter on Sunday telling Raleigh city leaders he hopes they "see what their unequal treatment of some citizens is looking like. #WakeCountyWaterWars ."
The social media backlash, using the hashtag #WakeCountyWaterWars has gained strength as residents who live outside city limits were unwittingly paying inside city rates for years are now forced to adjust to high water bills.
Ed Buchan, a senior analyst with Raleigh Utilities, said out of the 195,000 customers in the City of Raleigh Public Utilities service area, 5,460 are outside city limits. They all pay double what someone inside city limits pays.
Buchan told ABC11 in February that it has to do with who the system was meant to serve.
"The water and sewer system is there in the first place to grow the tax base of a given community, not the areas outside of that community, the property tax values inside of that community," he said. "When you have to extend your water and sewer lines outside of that, there's just not as much value added for that community."
Buchan told ABC11 Tuesday, whatever action Representative Malone plans to take, he would like the Utilities Department to be at the table. For now, he said the city is legally obligated to charge customers in unincorporated areas the outside rates.