Austin Energy has confirmed two meter readers with a former contract company entered incorrect reads last summer. That caused a spike in water bills for thousands of customers.
Bob Hinman says his water bill has been about the same every month for the past 12 years, around $100. This past September...
"Water bill was $841," says Bob Hinman, austin resident.
That's way more than he expected.
"I was surprised," says Hinman.
Hinman filled out paperwork for an adjustment that was rejected, even though it showed him and his wife used 60-thousand gallons of water in one month. He wasn't the only one with a complaint. An investigation by Austin Energy began into why there were low water meter readings in August but more correct readings in September. The difference causing a sharp spike in water bills for nearly 17,000 customers. That investigation is now complete, where they discovered two meter readers associated with contract company Corix entered incorrect reads.
"Corix continued to do a review and Austin Energy confirmed it through our exchange with them that their review was both limited to the two individuals that worked for them as a contractor and it was also limited to that time period that we had concluded in our adjustments," says Kerry Overton deputy general manager of Austin Energy.
The two individuals no longer work for Corix. Coincidentally Austin Energy hired a new contract company that took over in September. Mayor Pro-Tem Kathy Tovo says there's a new procedure in place that can help prevent this type of incident from happening.
"As I understand it, meter readers, individuals who are out reading those meters will now be taking photographic evidence before, the beginning of the period. So, we'll have some photographic evidence to back up those readings," says Mayor Pro-Tem Kathy Tovo, Austin City Council.
But, Hinman believes this could be a much bigger problem.
"How do two people equate to 17,000? I can't imagine that a guy, or two guys, in one month can look at 17,000 water meters," says Hinman.
Austin Energy says they have gone through a smoothing adjustment process where more than 7,000 customers received credits. Hinman's credit was $50. He says it's a drop in the bucket compared to what he was forced to unjustly shell out.
"I've always been a fan of Austin and the city, that they really try to take care of their people and I think eventually this will smooth out. It's just, there was so much push-back like we couldn't have done this. Instead of saying 'Hey, you know, let's take a look at it," says Hinman.
The City of Austin is seeking legal action against Corix, hoping to recover costs.