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City explains why some water bills jumped up this month

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Posted at 2:17 PM, Jan 27, 2015
and last updated 2015-01-28 00:36:25-05

PETERSBURG, Va. -- Officials with the City of Petersburg have responded to questions from water customers about why bills have jumped by -- in some cases -- hundreds of dollars.

For the last three years, the water bill at Katy Sober-Brown's Petersburg home has been pretty consistent at around $80 per bill.

However, this month she saw an unexpected hike.

"It's ridiculous, we didn't even get warned," she said.

Sober-Brown said her current bill was for $226

Colleen Riggs and her family also live in Petersburg and saw an increase. They usually pay around $120, but the city charged them over $300 this month.

CBS 6 asked the city about the hikes. A spokeswoman said the city installed new meters and with that there were two cycles of estimated bills sent out during the transition period.

The spokeswoman said some customers were not billed for usage, just for the minimum capacity.

However, some say that doesn't make sense.

"Our bills were still $80, that's how much it's always been," said Sober-Brown.

The city said it's waiving any late fees and working with customers if they need a payment plan.

"Some of our friends' bills are anywhere from $400 to $799 for the current bill. We have been paying around $77 to $89 in the past few months," Clifford N. said via Facebook. "Can you check this out for us?"

Petersburg responded to the issue via Facebook:

The City of Petersburg Public Utilities Division recently completed the installation of new meters. This was a commitment made to the City of Petersburg to deliver this by the end of 2014 and to reflect a much more accurate reading of our customers water usage with the new technology of the automated meter reading system.

The City of Petersburg generated two cycles of ESTIMATED BILLS during the transition period of meter installations. All bills during this time period (late summer / early fall 2014) were marked ESTIMATED BILL.
During this “estimated bill” time, the City learned some customers were billed for 0 (zero) usage for these two cycles. Of the customers we have spoken to in the last 24 hours, they were pleased that their bills had, by and large, reduced in the amount due. Unfortunately, there are a group of customers that usage has now been placed on their bill all at one time.

The City understands the customers concerns and for those customers the City is waiving late fees and interest calculations associated with this latest billing. The City will also work with customers to set up payment plans.

To ensure Customers concerns will be addressed, increased staff is available at the Utility Billing office to work with our Customers. We encourage those with questions to contact the Utility Billing Office (804) 733-2349 or the Utility Operations Office (804) 733-2407 with any concerns. The City appreciates our customers patience and understanding while we correct this issue.