Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa water report: Many factors caused high bills

TAMPA — Reacting to a flood of complaints about unusually high water bills, a review of the water department reported Thursday what some officials have contended all along — that the city alone is not at fault.

The internal review, made to the Tampa City Council, quickly was met with criticism.

"Somehow bills were getting sent out in high numbers that were elevated, and we still don't know why," said council member Mary Mulhern. "I think you know what the problem is, and I don't know why you can't just tell us what the problem is, and the next administration will have to fix it."

She said the report was heavy on information but thin on explanations. The water department, she said, still has not pinpointed why in recent months some residents received water bills three, five and 10 times above normal.

The report council members received Thursday didn't address specific customer cases.

Instead, a task force formed by Mayor Pam Iorio, who leaves office at the end of the month, outlined contributing factors and listed recommendations for improving procedures.

The task force pointed out that it was unseasonably cold and dry from September through December. At the same time, city officials voted to relax drought restrictions and allow lawn watering two days a week.

That higher water usage caused some customer consumption to be pushed to levels that triggered higher billing rates for heavy users, said chief of staff Darrell Smith.

The review didn't reveal any systemic issues with the water department's billing process. However, some water meters were not being read within the two-month billing cycle outlined by city policy, which could cause those residents to be charged for more water than they actually consumed in that period.

Those answers didn't satisfy customer Scott Bohnsack.

The bill he received for rental property he owns off Waters Avenue near Dale Mabry Highway quadrupled in October and November from the usual $250.

Bohnsack said in an interview after the meeting that the water department told him his meter had caused inaccurate readings and needed to be replaced. But he thinks the problem isn't about the equipment.

"I truthfully don't think people are actually reading the damn things," he said.

Bohnsack said the city can't be trusted to dig into its own issues to pinpoint what really caused the skyrocketing bills.

"It seems as though they're ignoring it," he said. "There is something that just does not add up."

The task force's list of recommendations for improving the department includes moving to a system where meters are read monthly instead of every other month. The city hopes to solicit proposals from companies wishing to implement the new policy but hasn't determined how much more it would cost.

The task force also recommended redesigning water bills so they're easier to read. And it suggested the city update some policies and procedures, including better customer service training, rotating meter reading routes and relocating meters that are difficult to access.

Council members said they would review the report and discuss the issue at next week's meeting.

Tia Mitchell can be reached at tmitchell@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3405.

City gets bids for New Tampa bridge

Tampa City Council members, who had asked for a status report on a controversial project to build a bridge over Interstate 75 in New Tampa, learned Thursday that the city staff has reviewed bids. The lowest proposal was $12.4 million. The contract administration office is preparing contract documents that will be submitted for City Council and mayoral approval in April. By then, a new mayor and at least three new council members will be in office.

Tampa water report: Many factors caused high bills 03/17/11 [Last modified: Thursday, March 17, 2011 11:39pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Jordan Spieth wins British Open (w/ video)

    Golf

    SOUTHPORT, England — Someday, perhaps soon, there will be a plaque at Royal Birkdale for Jordan Spieth, much like the one off the 16th hole that celebrates Arnold Palmer and the 6-iron he slashed out of the rough in 1961 to win the British Open and usher in a new era of golf.

    Matt Kuchar plays out of the bunker on the 18th hole and finishes with bogey for 1-under 69. He had a one-shot lead after 13 holes.
  2. Fennelly: Brutal weekend could be start of something worse for Rays

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Well, that was lovely.

    Brad Boxberger suffers his second loss in the three-game series, this time by allowing back-to-back homers in the eighth inning when called on to protect a 5-3 lead. “Just bad pitches,” he says.
  3. Wesley Chapel hockey camp impresses youth players, parents

    Lightning Strikes

    WESLEY CHAPEL — As a 17-year-old Triple-A hockey player, MacCallum Brown regularly plays against elite talent. As a Palm Harbor resident, he often has to travel to face that talent.

  4. Rays claim not to be panicking after third straight brutal loss to Rangers (w/ video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — There was no "here we go again" moment in the dugout as Rougned Odor's two-run homer in the eighth inning arced across Tropicana Field and toward the rightfield seats, even though when it landed, the score was tied and another late-inning Rays lead was blown.

    Rays third baseman Evan Longoria heads back to the dugout after fouling out in the ninth inning with the potential tying run on first.
  5. White House signals acceptance of Russia sanctions bill

    National

    WASHINGTON — The White House indicated Sunday that President Donald Trump would accept new legislation imposing sanctions on Russia and curtailing his authority to lift them on his own, a striking turnaround after a broad revolt in Congress by lawmakers of both parties who distrusted his friendly approach to …

    President Donald Trump’s ability to lift sanctions against Russia would be blocked.