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Computer Glitch to Blame for Inflated Rocky Mount Utility Bills

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ROCKY MOUNT — A higher than usual power bill is tough to manage, but imagine getting the equivalent of three bills at once. Some Rocky Mount residents are being asked to pay bills two to three times higher than normal.

Gerlene Borum's December utility bill was twice as much as November's, and it got worse from there.

"In January it went to $349, and then February it went to a whopping $478," she says.

Borum is one of hundreds of city customers wanting answers about huge bills.

Barbara Dowd has a similar story. During a typical winter month last year, she paid about $150. The bill she has to pay now is nearly three times that amount.

"Why does the bill go from one number, one figure, to triple the amount you've been paying, and some people quadruple? And I just want to know why did all of this happen and no explanation was given to anybody," says Dowd.

The city says a computer program it bought to avoid Y2K problems caused this mess.

"We've had a major conversion of our utility billing software," says Steve Raper, Rocky Mount city manager.

Because ofHurricane Floyd, the city did not have time to test the program with old data. Then the big snowstorm hit in January.

The city finally fixed everything a few days ago, and they want anyone with a problem to call City Hall.

"We appreciate their patience and understanding," says Raper. "It is frustrating, and we would like to work with them one on one. If they have questions and concerns we'll be glad to work with them."

Flood victims who have not returned to their homes in Rocky Mount should cancel their utility services, at least temporarily if they have not already done so. The city says they may still be paying for power and garbage pickup.

In all, there are 30,000 electricity customers in Rocky Mount. About 3,000 of those customers are affected by the billing problems.

If you are a Rocky Mount utility customer and have questions about your bill, call252-972-1250.


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