High water bills prompt call for audit of district
Affected homes are in Parkland and Coral Springs
A Broward County commissioner is demanding answers from a water district after he says his office has received hundreds of complaints from residents about skyrocketingwater bills.
Commissioner Michael Udine wants theNorth Springs Improvement District to explain why residents’ bills have increased by as much as hundreds of dollars a month compared to the same period last year. “There needs to be transparency,” Udine told the Sun Sentinel on Tuesday.
The district serves about 16,000 homes in Coral Springs and Parkland.
District officials insisted Tuesday the problems have been overstated and that residents are exaggerating rate increases. The district cited various reasons for why bills might be higher, including water leaks and residentswhowater large lots.
The district said it has offered credits — an immediate rebate — to customers that it confirms to have had water leaks. “We don’t just give out credits,” said Rod Colon, the district’s deputy director. “There has to be a justified reason.”
He said the district also is switching how meters are read, from individual readings by a person to a computerized system. In March, the billing cycle was 40 days instead of 30, which could account for some higher fees, he said.
“We’ve resolved the majority of the cases,” he said of the people who have complained.
The district, which conducts an independent audit annually, accusedUdine of “politics.”
“It’s to make himself look better to the public,” saidMaryamOmidi, the district’s chief financial officer. “We have nothing to hide.”
But Parkland resident Michael Schwartz said he’s rooting for more answers. After he fired off some angry emails, he said he accomplished nothing until his wife called the district and got a $100 credit for “no reason at all.”
That’s only a temporary fix, he said, since he got sticker shock when his bill went from $64 in March 2015 to $168 last month. He said his home has already been checked for a leak, he doesn’t have a pool, and he hasn’t touched the settings on his irrigation system for a year.
“What alarmed me is when my water bill was higher than my electric,” Schwartz said. “I want my water bills to be accurate and showwhat the actual usage is.”
Udine, who lives in Parkland and represents the area, said he wants the answers to his questions in writing.
“The public needs to be reassured the bills coming out of this government entity are proper,” he said. “The billing should be correct so residents paying them [are] confident they are being appropriately charged.”
Udine said it would be a good practice to have an audit that focuses on the district’s billing practices “to bring consistency and transparency to the district.”
Udine said one woman’s bill ballooned by hundreds of dollars. “I’ve been living in the NSID district for more than 20 years, and I don’t think my bill has ever been over $90 or $100,” he said.
Within the last couple ofweeks, Parkland Mayor Christine Hunschofsky said she also asked the district questions, but got thesame type of explanation. Now she said she is anxious for a resolution.
“There are too many people [complaining] to be explained away,” she said. “They need to explain what the cause is and what they are doing to resolve it.
“At this point it’s hardto believe, all of a sudden, so many people having leaks or using morewater.”
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