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Greenfield: No Water Rate Increase Until Billing Issues Caused by New Meters are Resolved

waterCouncilman David G. Greenfield is demanding that the city back off its proposal to again raise water rates in the coming year until it can resolve all outstanding issues that customers have had with sky-high bills ever since the city installed automated meter readers on homes and businesses several years ago. The city Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recently announced that homeowners and businesses are facing a yet-to-be-determined increase in their water bills next year, after being hit with a 5.6 percent increase this summer and a 7 percent increase last year. Since 2005, water bills have increased 78 percent, including double digit increases in four straight years from 2008 to 2011. According to a report in today’s Daily News, the city collected a record $3.3 billion in water revenues during the prior fiscal year, up from $2.1 billion in 2008. That means the average water bill for a single-family home is now nearly $1,000 a year – up from $554 just five years ago.

However, during the same time period, countless property owners have seen their bills increase by much higher amounts since the city began installing automated meter readers on buildings around the city in 2009 to remotely determine a property’s water usage. Many residents have reported receiving water bills that are two or three times higher than they were in the past, despite having fewer children at home and using a minimal amount of water. This was consistent with issues that other cities faced after installing similar technology, prompting Councilman Greenfield to call on the DEP to conduct a full audit and review of the new electronic meters, which were installed as part of a $250 million project, to ensure that they are accurate and are not overcharging residents.

While the DEP and Bloomberg administration has maintained that its system is accurate, Councilman Greenfield continues to receive complaints from frustrated property owners over incredibly high water bills that do not match the actual water usage at their home or business. In response to these continuing billing issues, Councilman Greenfield believes that the Water Board, which is appointed by the mayor, should not approve any future water rate increases until the DEP finally conducts a full audit of the automated meter readers to ensure they are accurate and to eliminate concerns from the public that thousands of customers are being overcharged.

“I have received hundreds of complaints about astronomical water bills and shocking monthly increases since these new automated meter readers were installed. Frankly, there are two major issues here – the fact that rates have been increased by this administration far above what is needed simply to cover the costs of providing water to the public, and the fact that some of these new meters must be faulty or broken. The DEP must conduct a full audit and resolve any billing issues before we even think about raising water rates again next year. It is bad enough to soak the public with this backdoor tax increase year after year, but it is a slap in the face to do it while so many outstanding questions about these new meters still exist,” said Councilman Greenfield.

Last year, Councilman Greenfield held a press conference on the steps of City Hall with several City Council colleagues and local residents who have been fighting the DEP over incredibly high water bills. In some cases, residents have reported receiving much higher bills despite having fewer children at home, or being billed for water usage while away for the extended periods of time in the summer. Compounding the problem is the fact that customers have no resource to challenge these bills once their appeal is denied by DEP. As a result, Councilman Greenfield has been calling for a full audit of the system and a better process for appealing high bills, and is renewing these calls in light of the reported water rate increase planned for next year.

(YWN Desk – NYC)

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