Councilman wants public hearing on water billing problems

by Kelly Thornton | inewsource

San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio on Tuesday called for a public meeting to discuss the new $24 million water billing system, which has been plagued with problems and has prompted thousands of calls from frustrated customers.

“Unfortunately, the level of customer service at the Water Department, which handles billing questions and addresses errors, has become so bad that multiple news articles have pointed out this serious problem,” DeMaio wrote in a memo to Councilman David Alvarez, chairman of the Natural Resources and Culture committee of the council. The memo was copied to other council members.

inewsource first reported problems with the new system in October. In a follow story published and aired Monday, inewsource found that almost six months after the new system was launched, phone lines at the city are still jammed with callers who have been overbilled, not billed at all, or had their water mistakenly shutoff. Thousands more have had to email the city because they could not get through on the phone lines.

City officials have said the system is working well; customers just need help adapting to a new system. The city is hiring a dozen temporary workers to help ease the backlog of calls, and it’s adding dozens of phone lines and opening 25 payments centers.

Numerous customers have contacted inewsource disputing that the problem amounts to user error.

DeMaio, who is running for mayor, said more needs to be done to fix the problem. He requested that water department officials attend the yet-to-be-scheduled meeting “to hear from the Water Department exactly what the problem is, what is being done to address it, and what we as a Council can do to ensure that this does not happen again.”

DeMaio continued: “As elected leaders, it is our responsibility to ensure that taxpayers and ratepayers receive the level of customer service that they deserve, and we are currently not measuring up.”

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