Galveston water customers overcharged for years

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Galveston is paying back water and sewer customers after overcharging them for years (KTRK)

For more than three years, the city of Galveston has overcharged customers on their water and sewer bills.

The city now plans to fix the problem, but won't be cutting customers checks anytime soon.

The city of Galveston plans to return millions to its residents. They say it's all due to a clerical error that had the city charging more than it should have since October of 2012.

So what went wrong, and how much of a return will customers see on their bills?

When it comes to those water and sewer bills, the city council voted to increase the rate by 1.5 percent - not the originally proposed 5.5 percent for water and 6.5 percent for sewer. Unfortunately, that's what customers have been paying due to a clerical error.

We talked to a happy resident and a business owner pleased with the correction, but not quite as happy.

Resident Andra Mitrovich said, "It'll probably give us a couple of months that we can smile about it, you know, and say, hey, we don't have much of a water bill this month, so it's a good thing. And it's really a good thing at the end of summer."

But business owner Jessie Ann Bradshaw said this isn't so great because she would have preferred investing the money elsewhere. She said she would like to see a check even though she is a current Galveston water customer.

The average customer will see a credit of about $116 in their future bill, and a correct rate on their water bill, starting this month.

Galveston says they will try to contact those with closed accounts, also, and return that money.

The city of Galveston sent a press release, which read in part:

    Current customers will already notice a decrease in their amount due on the August utility bill.

    "City staff identified the error and immediately corrected the rate table to ensure customers are charged in accordance with the approved ordinance," says Customer Service Manager Michael Abner. "Customers will now see lower water and sewer rates on their utility bills going forward and should expect to see the credit applied to their September bill."

    A customer that had water service from October 1st, 2012 to the present with the minimum monthly water usage of 200 cubic feet per month can expect a credit of approximately $44.90. A customer with an average water usage of 500 cubic feet per month can expect a credit of approximately $116.90. The City is currently calculating the final amounts to be credited for each account, a process that is anticipated to be completed in time for the September utility bill.

    Former customers who no longer have an active account will be notified by the City detailing the reason for the credit and the appropriate measures that need to be taken in order to receive a refund. For former customers where accounts were closed due to non-payment, the credit will be applied to the uncollected balance first and any remaining balance thereafter will be refunded to the customer.

    The City of Galveston's Utility Billing Division has designated customer service representatives to answer questions and provide more information on the rebate process. Please call (409) 797-3615 and select option #6 to speak with a representative.
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