City of PA has new process for dealing with water bills

Published 5:12 pm Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The city of Port Arthur Water Department should now have greater flexibility in adjusting expensive water bills.

The Port Arthur City Council approved the ordinance at their regular meeting on Tuesday morning in amending procedures for adjusting water bills for residential and commercial customers as it pertains to rates, billing and collection procedures and providing for publication.

An interoffice memo says that adoption of this ordinance will give the city opportunities to manage revenue in the water department.

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The ordinance will be published at least one time within 10 days after final passage and take effect immediately after the date of publication.

City Manager Brian McDougal can adjust water bills up to $5,000. The city manager’s designee may adjust water bills up to $1,000. Any adjustments in excess of $1,000 shall be forwarded to the city manager for approval.

Tiffany Hamilton, District 2 councilwoman, said the water department is currently limited to adjusting $250 and take care of it on their own before they have to get approval from the city council.

“We’re still having trouble with the billing system,” she said. “I’m not comfortable in hearing this when several customers are having trouble.”

Jimmie Johnson, assistant city manager of operations, said the council has previously asked the water department to review the matter and he didn’t want the council to have to get involved in the day to day operations of the department.

“This put this in the city manager’s hands with the $5,000 and gives him flexibility so the customers will not be held up,” Johnson said.

Hamilton said she is still receiving the same issues concerning expensive billings.

“This bill could cost $500 and be a huge concern for the person,” she said. “We need to figure out the situation on why the citizens aren’t being accurately billed.”

Mayor Derrick Freeman asked if this issue could possibly be resolved for the city council and have citizens come to them with their issues without amending the ordinance.

Johnson said every citizen has the right to address the council on any issue.

“We converted to automatic meter readers and we’re working out the bugs,” he said.

Johnson said part of the issue was the manufacturer’s meter language could not be translated to a language understandable to the city’s system.

Hamilton said, however, she wants the city to be proactive on this issue because some citizens will have to deal with this for another eight to 12 months.

“What’s up with their bill? Some don’t get their bills for three months and then they get a letter three months later reading they owe and extra $200 and they’re being shut off,” she said.

Mayor Pro Tem Raymond Scott Jr. said he also has been receiving complaints.

Willie “Bae” Lewis Jr., District 5 councilman, said he was concerned about the expense of the new ordinance. For instance, an aggregate of $5,000 times five can add up.

Johnson said very few customers have bills in excess of $5,000.

David Ball: 409-721-2427