SOUTH BAY, Fla. - Latorsha Harris runs a small day care out of her home in South Bay.
She’s used to paying a little extra for her monthly water bill, but she had no way of preparing for the latest bill that showed up in her mailbox.
It was for $451 dollars. That’s more than six times the normal amount.
“I never received a bill that expensive in my life,” said Harris.
Turns out she’s not alone. The Contact 5 Investigators learned 800 people in South Bay had extra charges on their monthly bill, including some city commissioners. The extra charges ranged from $30 to $1,100.
“I still have no answers, when I call the GUA they say they're not sending out a revised bill, this is my bill,” said Harris.
The Contact 5 Investigators made some calls of our own.
An official with the Glades Utility Authority, the group in charge of billing for South Bay, said they had a “coding error” when they converted over to a new computer system last year. They said they forgot to charge most residents for services like recycling and trash pickup for the last eight months. They put all of the charges on one bill without notifying customers.
Officials with the GUA sent the Contact 5 Investigators a detailed email and letter that they planned on sending to customers. It stated that residents would be allowed to spread the charges out over a six month period.
However, customers and most city officials did not know about the alternative payment plan until the Contact 5 Investigators shared our information with the South Bay City Commission.
“It was sent to NewsChannel 5 and Channel 5 just brought it to us so we have to thank them,” said the city manager at Tuesday night’s commission meeting.
Customers were relieved to hear the news, but they also unleashed their anger at the GUA board which met for a meeting the next day. Latorsha made sure she was there for the gathering.
“This is unacceptable, this really is,” Harris told GUA members.
The executive director of the Glades Utility Authority made a public apology.
“As soon as we became aware of it, we worked with South Bay to resolve the problem and I do apologize for the shock that you received,” said Jim Stiles.
The financial director for the GUA also said that the letter the Contact 5 Investigators had received would be sent out shortly to customers.
It’s a miscommunication that has the mayor of South Bay now questioning the city’s agreement with the GUA.
“What was even more disgusting than anything was last night when a representative from NewsChannel Five gave us a letter dated August 12th which isn't here yet, telling us what's going to go out in our community,” said Mayor Shirley Walker Turner.
Officials with the Glades Utility Authority said the problem is now fixed and that they will now be sending detailed monthly billing reports to the city to help prevent a similar situation from happening again.
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