Local News

Durham employee's mistake means higher water bills for some

Posted April 21, 2010 4:48 p.m. EDT
Updated April 21, 2010 6:31 p.m. EDT

— As many as 11,000 city water customers in Durham could end up paying more in their upcoming bills because of one employee.

Deputy City Manager Theodore Voorhees said Wednesday that a former meter reader spent about four months from September to February estimating some meters instead of taking the actual readings.

City officials began having suspicions in February, Voorhies said, but only recently did they realize how widespread the problem was.

"Because this person chose to not do their job – in an inconsistent way – it was hard to detect a pattern initially," he said.

Voorhies would not identify the employee, citing personnel privacy laws, but said the employee was terminated.

The city sent a letter to affected water customers Wednesday, advising them that their bills have been adjusted.

Customers, like Shemeecka Gaines, say they are outraged that they now have to pay up to triple the amount they normally pay.

Gaines' previous water bill from the city was about $49. Now, it's more than $206.

"It's just an outrage to me," she said. "I'm very upset."

Voorhies said customers can set up payment plans if they need to, but that they are expected to pay the higher bills because they did use the water.

In some cases, he added, the meter reader also overestimated some readings and that some customers are seeing a decrease in their bills.