DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis issued an open letter Dec. 28 to residents about water billing issues that have plagued the county for months.
The letter comes just hours before Ellis’ term ends on Dec. 31. He was reinstated to the job earlier this month after the state Supreme Court overturned his conviction for perjury and extortion saying he did not receive a fair trial. Ellis was suspended from his job in 2013 following corruption charges and in 2015 he was sentenced to 18 months in prison; he served eight months.
In the Dec. 28 letter, Ellis thanks citizens for welcoming him back to office and said when he returned to office this month he “immediately began working on a resolution to our water billing crisis.”
In the letter he states the county has some inaccurate data in its billing software stemming from outdated meters to newer technology.
“In many instances, the data which was supposed to identify newer technology meters was lost, causing the billing software to ‘misread’ information from the traditional meter,” Ellis wrote. “Before August 2016, our staff had been making thousands of manual adjustments in every billing cycle to restore statement accuracy. By August 2016, the number of accounts with data issues exceeded the ability of staff to correct them in time for billing. As a result, DeKalb County began withholding all statements that may have had data issues. The root causes of those data issues have now been identified, and those previously withheld bills will now be mailed out.”
Ellis also promises that each county resident will be treated fairly.
“The majority of water billing accounts will be unaffected as they have received timely and accurate statements. However, we recognize that for those customers whose statements have been withheld, this creates a hardship,” Ellis wrote.
“Therefore, the bills of those customers whose statements were withheld, or accounts that have been otherwise identified as containing questionable information, will be released to these customers beginning Friday, Dec. 30. These bills will include an estimate based upon the average usage over the past 12 billing cycles (discarding the highest and lowest statements in this period),” he stated. “During this period of estimated bills, customers will not be back-billed if the actual usage amount exceeds the estimated amount. Customers will also be given 12 months to pay any bill that was withheld from a normal statement mailing by DeKalb County from September-December 2016.”
Ellis said the county has also implemented a verification process to ensure future accuracy and also notes that not all high water bills are the fault of the county. Some high water bills, he stated, are due to leaks on a resident’s property as well as higher usage.
“In conclusion, DeKalb County is committed to providing the best possible customer service to our citizens. We apologize for any inconvenience and hardship this issue has caused and we appreciate your patience, understanding, ideas and support as we work through this challenging issue,” stated Ellis.
Read the full Ellis letter below: