NEWTON (CBS) – Newton homeowners are getting a shock when they go to the mailbox.
Water bills for some homeowners are suddenly thousands of dollars more expensive, and their pleas to city hall are not making much of a difference.
Recently, the City of Newton started replacing their antiquated water meters, which for years now have been failing. Residents have been under-billed, and now they have been hit with a one-time big bill for the water they’ve consumed in years past.
WBZ-TV’s Paul Burton reports.
“People think they are getting these huge bills because of the new meter. They’re getting huge bills because of years of being under-billed,” said Terri Flannery, who recently received a water bill for $3,444.83.
What many residents are most upset about is that the city did not give any clear warning about the faulty meters, until they were slammed with the bills.
Bob Rooney, Newton’s chief operating officer, said they did send a warning to residents to call in their actual meter readings, but many did not pay attention to it.
“If we don’t get an actual number from the homeowner, on the bill… we will estimate based on an average of the last four years of your data trying to get the best estimate we can,” said Rooney.
But, residents said the city’s water billing practices are unfair.
“No accountability, no transparency,” said Fran Maltz, who recently received a bill for more than $4,000. “It reflects a lot of incompetency and fact that their equipment has failed.”
WBZ NewsRadio 1030′s Art Cohen reports.
The city is offering a one-year, interest-free payment plan for residents who have those high bills.
But, Newton residents said that’s not good enough and would like to see an independent review of the city’s billing practices of the water department.
A similar situation happened last year in Brockton. At that time, the water department admitted it had been under-charging people for years and started trying to collect, which led to months of complaints and protests.
This summer, Brockton came up with a compromise where the water department would only try to collect money from the last two years, but many residents still are still not happy.