By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Dozens of recent complaints against Northeast Itawamba Water Association prompted new measures this week that the utility hopes will lower monthly bills and regain customer trust.
Effective immediately, the association will provide a one-time adjustment on any bill questioned by a customer, and it will limit its billing cycles to no more than 30 days.
Its employees also will leave door hangers on the homes and businesses of every meter they read providing their name, the date and the reading on the meter.
Association board members voted unanimously on the new rules at a meeting Thursday, said Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley, who attended the meeting at the association’s request.
A woman at Northeast Itawamba on Friday referred all questions to association President Ralph Burks, who did not return calls for comment.
Presley said his agency had fielded approximately 85 complaints in the past two weeks from association customers claiming their bills were unusually high and requesting an investigation.
Upon reviewing the bills, the commission found them to be accurate but also noted they charged higher rates than most utilities.
“I’ve never seen rates this high at a water association,” Presley said. “I think their average bill is like $70.”
The higher-than-normal rates come after a March adjustment to raise funds for the construction of a water main connecting Northeast Itawamba to the water supply in Franklin County, Ala. When the project is done, Franklin County will provide all the water to Northeast Itawamba’s roughly 1,780 customers, according to details from Engineering Solutions Inc., which is designing the main.
It’s expected to alleviate chronically low water pressure and decoloration from the existing ground wells, which have started running dry.