Residents of Oklahoma town outraged over water bill prices; Mayor says problem solved

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SPENCER, Okla. (KFOR) – Sky-high water bills in Spencer have some folks seeing red. A number of residents say they’re being charged double, and in some cases, triple their usual rates. The Mayor tells KFOR the problem is solved as of Monday evening.

The spikes began after the city installed new electronic smart meters in late spring. The new meters are intended to provide more accurate water usage reads, but many residents didn’t expect their new bills to spike so severely, calling them grossly inaccurate.

“I think it’s outrageous,” said resident Lisa Janloo. “Since they switched my old meter to a smart meter, my bill has spiked from a $60 water bill to over a $200 water bill.”

City of Spencer Councilwoman LaTonya Williams said she, too, was affected.

“My bill on the average for the summer should typically be anywhere from $60 to $80 on the high end, but I received a bill for $1,300.”

She said this is especially inconvenient for her residents who have their utility bills automatically pulled from their banking account.

“One woman paid her full bill, three-hundred-and-something dollars,” she explained. “Now, people may think that’s nothing, but to someone who’s on a fixed income, that was her food, that was everything else she had.”

The councilwoman said hundreds of residents are making similar complaints of high bills. She even shared a bill with KFOR from one resident in which $19,320.52 was billed for the month of August alone.

Williams said the bills don’t even show the water billing rate.

“Our residents are still not aware of as to how much per gallon or how much we’re actually paying for water,” she said.

City of Spencer Mayor Frank Calvin said he will recommend the city utilities department start putting the water billing rate on bills. 

He also explained to KFOR that the issue with the high bills was a mathematical error in their billing system software.

“The readings on the meters were correct,” he explained. “It’s just once it went through the calculations of the billing system, that is what caused the problem. It was the calculation in the billing system that was off.”

He said Monday he attended a meeting with the city manger, the utilities department, and staff at both the smart meter company and the billing system company and the problem is now fixed as of early Monday evening. He also said the city will reimburse anyone that overpaid on bills.

“We’re not trying to rob anybody or be malicious in the billing,” he said. “It’s not something that we’re trying to hurt anyone. The only thing we’re trying to do is make sure our citizens get a fair price for the product that they’re using.”

He said now that the errors have been fixed, they’ll do some heavy testing Tuesday and that October’s utility bills should be accurate.

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