City plans fix as customer complaints of outrageous water bills increase

City plans fix as customer complaints of outrageous water bills increase

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - From water bills spiking to well over $1,000 to meters going unchecked or meters just not working, WIS has reported on a slew of water bill issues in the City of Columbia during the last month.

Columbia City Manager Teresa Wilson acknowledged an increase in customer concerns and outlined steps the city is taking toward resolution.

"I guess some of the volume of some of the escalated concerns I'm hearing about is giving me pause, and also look into over the last few months how we can do some things differently," said Wilson.

Wilson said that while city engineers believe most of the city's 140,000 or so water meters work correctly, there are always going to be some that don't. Wilson, however, said the bigger concern is customer service.

"Having our citizens have questions gives me concern, and I just want to reassure our public that there's a lot of things going on from my standpoint that's not necessarily the day-to-day bill issues that some people are facing, but I'm trying to look at things from a higher level and trying to be proactive and really change the way in which we do business," said Wilson.

In the wake of concerns, the city has created plans for a new structure for the Department of Utilities and Engineering. Wilson said the city will post a job for a new assistant city manager position this week to focus solely on this department. They'll then break the department into two sections -- engineering and utilities -- while elevating customer service to report directly to the newly created position.

"I think that frustration that our customers feel, I would understand that if that hasn't been explained to them. So I think that's why it's necessary for me to talk about this and to talk about the things we're doing to address the timeliness of how quickly we can get to them," said Wilson.

Plans also include a feasibility study for new digital meter infrastructure, but that could take several years to put into place.

"There's a lot of technology out there that we strive for, but until we get there we've got to ensure that customer care and field services are adequately staffed. That with the volume of customers and concerns that we have, that we're getting to those in. My goal would be in two days, not five days. And that right now is where we are," said Wilson.

The city has also committed to holding after hour water billing d rop-ins once a month through February.

The next will be held December 7 from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Eau Claire Print Building on Ensor Avenue.

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