Homeowner raises concerns after receiving costly water bills

Homeowner raises concerns after receiving costly water bills

IRMO, SC (WIS) - When Traci Faransworth and her boyfriend moved into their Irmo home in 2015, the water bills they received were merely an afterthought.

But a few months after they moved in, the bill mysteriously got higher.

"They were billing us for the wrong meter," Faransworth said. "They were billing us for the lot two lots over. Not the lot we were living in. So, they said that was our fault. It wasn't their problem. We needed to figure it out."

The City of Columbia worked with Faransworth on a payment plan to tackle the $370 bill. By June, her balance was back to zero.

"It was going fine," she said. "We got a regular bill in July, which we paid."

She assumed the bill, which was $50 or so at the time, would be her new norm. But one month later, another $370 bill arrived. This time, customer service had another justification.

"She's like, 'By the looks of your billing, we were estimating you at zero usage each month,'" Faransworth recalled.

That meant the City wasn't reading their meter monthly.

"All of a sudden, they go check the meter and we're back paying for the last four or five months," Faransworth said.

The utilities department said this is not normal.

"There are situations where we have to estimate," said City of Columbia Director of Utilities and Engineering Joey Jaco. "It's not something we want to do and we fix it as quickly as we can."

Jaco went on to say a situation like Faransworth's should not and could not happen.

"The City is in the process of scheduling community meetings to hear from our water customers in order to address water bill discrepancies and hear other concerns," City Manager Teresa Wilson said in a statement. "In addition to the community meetings, I am also working with staff to develop a process review of our entire billing and collections system."

Wilson said the city meetings are meant to help customers understand why their bills might spike or dip. Wilson also said the city strives to identify any improvements that would eliminate water bill discrepancies.

Faransworth continues to fight her bill. She said she is not ready to give in to a 50 percent payment.

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