DELRAY BEACH, Fla. — Delray Beach resident Linda Polly is puzzled by her water bills.
Charges she said that suddenly appeared on her bills have now suddenly disappeared.
"For six months previous, I received a sprinkler commodity charge," she said. "It's gone. There's no reference to any sprinkler."
There's also no reference or charge for reclaimed water on her bill, which she said feeds her sprinkler system.
Her husband showed how the meter spins when the sprinklers turn on.
"I had field people from the city out here who said we were on reclaimed water," she said. "I was never billed for reclaimed water."
Polly's neighbor, Maura Hopkins, said first the city failed to charge her for water for more than a year and a half. Then, months later, she was surprised when she opened her water bill.
"Then I get a $25,000 water bill and they say, 'Oh, no, no, that was an accident,'" Hopkins said.
Earlier this year, Contact 5 quickly discovered the problem wasn't isolated after a customer shared a $43,000 water bill. Several other five-figure bills surfaced totaling more than $100,000. The city blamed it on factory settings on new meters.
"I was told I was the only one," Hopkins said. "Every time I tried to talk to somebody about it, they were like, 'Well, this is an isolated incident.'"
Along with additional training, controls and adjustments, the city is now looking to bring in an outside forensic auditor to examine active meters and investigate every city-issued utility bill dating back to October 2020.
"I think it's a good start," Hopkins said. "But I think it should go back five years. I think there's a lot that they don't know."
Polly said she hopes the city "can get to the bottom of what's going on."
Contact 5 shared Polly's bills with Delray Beach Mayor Shelly Petrolia, who said she would talk to the city manager about it.
"I think it needs to be checked," she said. "I mean, obviously, there's an issue."
Petrolia told Contact 5 she welcomes the audit.
"What we have to do is figure out why it's happening and then get to the bottom of it and make sure that it doesn't happen in the future," the mayor said.
Contact 5 asked Petrolia if anyone has been held accountable for any of this.
"Not to my knowledge," she said.
Polly said she hopes "something is going to change."
"It's not fair," she said. "I know there's something wrong with my bills."