Kingfisher woman receives $813 water bill

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KINGFISHER, Okla. - When it comes to summer time, we all expect bills to be a little bit higher, but in Kingfisher, folks are dealing with bills hundreds of dollars more than usual.

Rhonda Smith was startled when she opened up her bill. It read $813.75.

"I about had a heart attack," said Smith. "I couldn't believe it."

Past bills show her water usually costs $50 to $80 dollars this time of year.

"So I knew something was wrong," Smith says.

She's not alone. One after the other, people crowded into the Kingfisher City Council meeting with the same problem.

"My bill was like $660 total," said Robert Scrimpsher.

"$400," said Dave Bowerman. "You don't want to know what I think about that."

Even City Manager Dave Slezickey says he had a high bill this month.

"My bill was $250 dollars past few months, and I think it was $686 dollars this month," said Slezickey.

Slezickey says Burrell Inc. reads electric, gas and water meters. The city contracted with that company six years ago, but this Spring, Slezickey says the company downsized and inconsistencies started.

"Shortly after that, they were late getting some of the books to us," said Slezickey.

We called Burrell to ask what caused the high bills. No one returned our messages.

"My assumtion is they were estimated instead of being read," said Slezickey.

Whoever estimated Smith's bill says she used 575 units of water in one month. Based on records, she uses that much in a year and a half.

"I allotted $50 to $100 for this bill. I don't have $813.75 nowhere. Turn it off. I don't know what else to do," said Smith.

She and dozens of others refuse to pay because they believe their bills are fraudulent.

The City Council met Monday night and decided to waive late fee penalties for customers impacted by billing errors. Leaders notified Burrell Inc. that the city will no longer be using their services. Members say they are soliciting for bids for contracted meter reading services.

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