NJ - Water Bill Computer Glitches Confuse Customers

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Title: Residents trying to tread high water bills

Published in the Asbury Park Press 5/03/00


OCEAN GATE -- When Irene Merlin got her water bill last week, her eyes opened wide.

"I couldn't believe the numbers," said Merlin, who promises she has no intention of paying the $530 bill for excess water use during the last six months until she gets a manual reading that shows how much water was actually used rather than just a bill for the money owed to the borough water company.

Frederick C. Ebenau, the borough's chief financial officer who heads the billing department for the water and sewer departments, admits that Merlin and the other residents who have called Borough Councilman Richard Hanusey to complain about their bills might have a point.

"This is the first time we've used a new computer billing program. There may have been some glitches," Ebenau said. "I have a meeting scheduled Friday to go over some of the complaints we've received."

Two companies, Edmunds of Northfield and Census Technology of Pennsylvania, share the billing, said Ebenau.

He said one company uses a device to read the meters electronically. That information is fed into a computer, which does a report and also sends information to the billing company to provide fees for those who use in excess of 30,000 gallons per six months.

Merlin said that the same three adults have been living in her home here on Bayview Avenue for the last six years.

"Only once did we get an overuse bill and that was for $33.60," she said.

"At first I thought I might have a leak somewhere. But when my mother, who has an apartment next to my house, got her bill, it had a $132 charge for excessive use. She's going to be 84. Outside of running a dishwasher two or three times a week and normal bathing, she hardly uses any water."

Homeowners face a charge of $115 annually for usage of up to 30,000 gallons for six months, 60,000 for the year. They are billed every six months for water used in excess of 30,000 gallons for the period.

"We got about 20 complaints from 700 bills. It could be that the wrong numbers were input when we changed over or it could be there was a wrong reading by the device. We'll send a person out to manually read the meters to see where the mistakes were made," Ebenau said. "We also have to find out why the amount of water used was not printed on the bill."

Joe Adelizzi: (732) 557-5735



-- (Dee360Degree@aol.com), May 10, 2000

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