Harnett County residents pack meeting to vent about exorbitant water bills

SANFORD, N.C. (WTVD) -- Several dozen people packed Highland Elementary School's auditorium Monday night to voice concerns about unusually high water bills.

Glenn McFadden, assistant director of Harnett Regional Water, answered questions for more than two hours as part of the public forum. He said they believe some of the issues are traced back to a meter reader who was estimating readings.

Because of that, some bills were coming in lower than usual over a three-month period. To rectify the issue, they tried to average the difference from the two most recent correct readings and apply that to the bill, leading to the higher-than-normal total.

"The meters are accurate and the gallons were used. It's just unfortunate that it wasn't billed properly," McFadden explained.

The meter reader is no longer working with the county, as officials continue to investigate.

In an effort to try to rectify concerns, Harnett Regional Water is waiving 50 percent water usage on the last bill, and allowing customers who reach out the chance to pay in a payment plan.

One of the most eye-popping totals belonged to Shamika Harper, whose bill -- which she said typically averages about $30-$50 a month -- came in at $877.01.

It listed her household of using nearly 157,820 gallons of water the last billing cycle, which is nearly a quarter of an Olympic-sized pool.

Harper told ABC11 she is not satisfied with the response.

"Still that leaves with me 400-and-some dollars. It's unacceptable. Very unacceptable. And pulling my bill from the last three years, the highest I ever used was 15,300 gallons of water," Harper said.

Harper was one of a handful of people who said their bills jumped several hundred dollars.

"Those we'll look at individually. I mean that doesn't appear to be -- a lot of folks here tonight may have had issues outside what we were here to talk about," McFadden explained.

So far, Harnett Regional Water has already adjusted about 150 bills, but don't know how many more customers may be affected.

"I used to run a business. If I ever sold something, I'd never got to go back to the customer and say 'hey, I didn't charge you enough money, I've got to charge you more.' I think they should eat this," said Dave Kinney, whose bill was about three times higher than normal.

The readings were billed at the new water rate. To learn more about Harnett Regional Water rates, click here.
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