Broken Arrow Residents Steamed Over Water Bills

Friday, September 11th 2009, 5:32 pm
By: News On 6

By Dan Bewley, The News On 6

BROKEN ARROW, OK -- Some residents in Broken Arrow say their latest water bill has thrown them in the deep end. The bill has some paying more than twice as much as normal, and residents say the city owes them an explanation. Why are their latest water bills so high?

"So something's wrong, somebody made a mistake somewhere," said Bill Baldwin, Broken Arrow resident.

They're upset, angry, and confused in Broken Arrow.

"It's maddening to know that all of the sudden you're hit with a bill like this," said Broken Arrow resident Royce Grubb.

All thanks to their latest water bill.

"Last month's bill was $47.70; this month's bill was $181.35," said Baldwin.

"My bill is $122.46," Royce Grubb told The News On 6.

"The last month it was about $58."

City leaders say they haven't seen anything like this but say the bills are accurate and need to be paid.

Broken Arrow citizens Royce Grubb and Bill Baldwin want to know why there was such a dramatic increase in their water bills.

Grubb, for example, paid for 6,000 gallons of water in July. In August his bill claims he used 26,000 gallons. While Baldwin was billed for 3,900 gallons of water on his July statement, in August the city says he used more than 44,000 gallons.

Baldwin thinks there is no way his August bill is accurate.

The city says a rate hike added 50 cents to every thousand gallons of water, as well as 22 days of close to 100 degree temperatures. But the difference, officials say, may lie with how the city tracks water usage. It alternates which months it reads the meters.

So the July bill was actually an estimate using the average use of water from mid-March to mid-June. In August the city read the meters and added any amount that may have been previously under billed.   

"We're doing the best that we can but this is just a situation that we have never experienced through our estimation process which we've been doing for four years," said Broken Arrow Finance Director Tom Caldwell. "This is the worst anomaly, or whatever you want to call, in the bills we have ever seen."

That's not good enough for Bill Baldwin. He says he didn't use any more water than usual during an unseasonably cool August.

"But when we're in the wettest month, and it's been cool for August and I've jumped from 3,900 to 44,800, something's wrong," Broken Arrow resident Bill Baldwin said.

The city says it can work out a payment plan for anyone who needs help paying their bill, and they encourage anyone with questions to call City Hall.

UPDATE: The City of Broken Arrow issued a press release Friday evening stating that the water bills are under review and being recalculated at this time. There will be no charge for rereading the meters. Any errors will be corrected and accounts credited or payments refunded.