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Engineer believes Delray Beach should 'take ownership' of utility billing errors

Fred Bloetscher believes 'it's an error in meter reading'
Delray Beach water bills with hefty price tags
Posted at 5:30 PM, Apr 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-29 18:30:04-04

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. — An engineer once hired by the city of Delray Beach to examine the reclaimed water program said the city's utility department should take ownership of recent billing issues resulting in multiple homeowners getting five-figure water bills.

Contact 5 spoke with Fred Bloetscher, an engineer with decades of utility system management experience, after WPTV's reporting found three homeowners received four bills that totaled more than $100,000 for water.

Reviewing the five-figure bills, Bloetscher said he believed "it's an error in meter reading."

"There should be at least two places where somebody should have grabbed this and said, 'Wait a minute. That looks like a problem. We need to investigate it further,'" Bloetscher said.

He noted that "in the utilities that I have worked with, this would have caused a meter reader to go back out, verify that that was truly the meter reading."

"There would have been some follow-up," Bloetscher told Contact 5.

Fred Bloetscher, utilities engineer
"There should be at least two places where somebody should have grabbed this and said, 'Wait a minute. That looks like a problem. We need to investigate it further,'" Fred Bloetscher says.

Bloetscher is no stranger to the city of Delray Beach. He was hired to review its reclaimed water program and said he found a lack of control in their system.

Three of the five-figure water bills on which Contact 5 previously reported were for reclaimed water homeowners said they never used.

The city blamed those errors on new water meters and factory settings and said it would audit its billing process.

Delray Beach Mayor Shelly Petrolia told Contact 5 in a recent interview that the city is "going to have to have an audit done of our water department billing and, also, it's going to have to include looking at the meters and finding out what's going on, because this is not the first time I've seen a bill like this."

Bloetscher thinks the billing staff should be held accountable for the errors.

"The billing department needs to take ownership of the problem," Bloetscher told Contact 5.

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