Florence residents get high water bills due to ‘conversion’ issues

FLORENCE, SC (WBTW) – Some people in Florence say a new billing system caused a big increase in their monthly water bill.

Monday, Florence City Council was given a memorandum explaining the issues surrounding the new water billing system that started in August.

Sequoia Williams says her bill more than quadrupled with the switch to the new system.

“My bill is usually running, even on a bad month, is between $35-$40. This particular month, when I got my bill, it was $188,” explains Williams. “I’ve never had a bill that high. Never!”

She says she is working with the city to adjust the bill based on leakage but even the modified bill is much higher at $93.

“You’re asking me to pay in one month what I would usually pay in three,” questions Williams.

Florence collections manager Tom Shearin says the city switched to a more advanced and accurate system. Now the department is working through glitches. About 350 water bills have been impacted by the switch so far.

“We are seeing some high bills,” admits Shearin. “It’s a combination of things in the system. Our biggest concern is the new system working properly and it appears that it is. If we had issues with the conversion, we can deal with that. We just want to get back to a normal cycle and carry it forward.”

Shearin says the department gets about 500 calls a day. When a customer makes a complaint, city employees will send meter readers to double check the original read.

“We had a second reading to confirm it was correct, so what we are doing with customers, anything that is out of the ordinary, we are adjusting to a normal bill for them. In order to make it come out equal for the customer,” said Shearin.

The city will waive late fees and work with people that couldn’t visit city hall. Officials hope to work out all the issues with the new system by the next billing cycle.

“When we bill this month, all of the information will be on the new system. We’re hoping it will stabilize itself,” said Shearin.

People that cannot make it into talk with the water department about their bill may email the department at utilitybilling@cityofflorence.com

The city hopes to have a mobile app and e-bill set up for customers by January.