Birmingham Water Works answers questions about thousands of over billed customers

Birmingham Water Works answers questions about thousands of over billed customers
(Source: WBRC)

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - For the first time since our investigation last Thursday on major issues with the Birmingham Water Works, the water system's general manager today answered our questions about why thousands of customers are being over billed.

The utility released a list of nine problems customers have encountered since the $10 million new billing system went online November 15th. Those problems include overbilling, improper disconnect notices, problems with getting online log-on credentials, paying bills online, even incorrectly billing municipalities with fire hydrants in the system.

"We only wanna charge the customers for the water they consume," Birmingham Water Works General Manager Mac Underwood said. "Unfortunately during this process, we've had some issues that we've had to work through, and we're working through those issues."

The system admits frustrated customers are waiting sometimes hours to get a customer service representative on the phone to complain, prompting us to ask why the system didn't add more customer service representatives before rolling the system out.

"That's probably something we should've done," Underwood admitted.

The Water Works is using a system from software provider SAP, the same vendor that Jefferson County's government tried to use for a software overhaul that cost taxpayers almost $20 million before the county scrapped it in 2014 after 10 years of trying to make it work.

"We probably could've done a few things a little bit better a little bit different to roll this system out and make it a little bit more efficient on the rollout," Underwood said. "But the bottom line is we are committed to going through any problem, any issue, and billing the customer for the amount they should be billed."

The system now promises if you've gotten a bad bill in the last two months, they will review your account and make it right by March 1, and Underwood says they're not shutting off anyone's water right now while they work through these issues, even if you get a disconnect notice.

The system this week also added two new customer service representatives and promoted four part-time workers to full time.

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