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Delray Beach interim city manager calls for audit of water billing after Contact 5 investigation

Residents say they were mistakenly billed $25,000, $50,000
A Delray Beach woman says she mistaken received a $25,000 water bill on March 30, 2021.jpg
Posted at 11:27 AM, Apr 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-15 18:40:56-04

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. — The city of Delray Beach will launch an audit of its utility billing procedures after a WPTV Contact 5 investigation that found two residents received five-figure water bills.

Contact 5 reported last week that Delray Beach resident Maura Hopkins received a bill for more than $25,000 for reclaimed water she says she didn't use.

A city spokesperson said an "error" resulted in the charge. At the time, the city spokesperson also told Contact 5 that the error impacted no other residents.

But days after reporting on Hopkins's sticker shock, another resident reached out to Contact 5 with two water bills totaling nearly $50,000. The resident asked Contact 5 not to be identified.

After reaching out to the city with the latest five-figure water bills, a spokesperson told Contact 5 a "review of this process is currently underway to determine how errors like these can be prevented in the future."

"At the direction of Interim City Manager Alvarez, an independent audit of the utility billing process will be conducted in the near future," the city spokesperson wrote in an email.

Reacting to her neighbor's water bill, Maura Hopkins laughed before telling Contact 5, "[it's the] same amount as my bill, yet I was told I was the only one that had an issue."

From Nov. 2020 and March, the neighbor's bills total nearly $50,000 for reclaimed water.

"It just substantiates the claims that there's something wrong with the utility billing system," Hopkins said in an interview. "To try to get an answer is impossible."

In an email to Contact 5, the city spokesperson wrote, "additional oversight has already been put in place, including a more thorough review of all meter reading reports and utility bills, prior to bills going out to customers. Staff is working with the city's software vendor to make adjustments, and develop additional controls, which may enable staff to more effectively identify billing discrepancies."

"I'm happy there is an audit. I think they're going to be shocked at the results that they find," Hopkins told Contact 5. "This bill that I received is irresponsible, [and] it shouldn't have gone out. I appreciate you looking into it, and finally, maybe, we'll get a resolution with an independent audit."

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