by: Richard Belcher Updated:ATLANTA,None —
Water rates in the City of Atlanta are among the highest in the country and rate-payers were just hit with another double-digit increase in July. Now a Channel 2 Action News investigation has uncovered evidence that Atlanta's cost of reading meters and sending out water bills is higher than other local water systems.
Damon Sgrignoli spoke with Channel 2 investigative reporter Richard Belcher about his water war with city hall. Sgrignoli says that his issues with Atlanta Watershed Management began in March with a gushing water leak right where the sidewalk meets his yard in the Kirkwood neighborhood.
Sgrignoli told Belcher the city told him it was his problem.
"My bill went anywhere, roughly, from $45 to $50 a month to $700 or $900," Sgrignoli says.
After spending nearly $1,400, Sgrignoli learned from his contractor that the leak was the city's fault. Now, Sgrignoli says after seemingly endless calls and trips to city hall his monthly bills still reflect hundreds of dollars for that disputed leak.
"I still continue to get bills of $600, $800, $900," Sgrignoli says.
Every month, hired contractors for local water departments print, stuff and mail bills to thousands of customers, something that Belcher saw in every water system he researched. Atlanta Watershed Management says its costs for just printing, stuffing and mailing the bills is comparable to other water systems, and the city is right in the middle of the pack.
"We feel that our numbers are favorable, favorable in comparison to our sister communities," said Jim Beard, CFO of Atlanta Watershed Management.
If you look at total costs including capital expenses and reading the meters, Belcher’s calculation shows that Atlanta is the most expensive by far, with annual billing costs of $23.64. That is 37 percent higher than the next most expensive water system, which Belcher calculated to be Gwinnett County.
DeKalb County spends $10.23, while Cobb County spends $13.69 and Gwinnett spends $17.21 per customer.
"When you added in the capital costs and the metering, which you asked us to do, you're still higher," Belcher told Beard.
"That may or may not be so, sir. The other communities, the numbers that you showed here, were billing, printing and stuffing costs, which is what I compared these to," said Beard.
Atlanta's costs certainly did not surprise Sgrignoli whose billing battle is now into its second half-year.
"It's a disorganized organization. It feels like it to me. It's just there is no accountability, as well. Everyone always blames someone else every time I call," said Sgrignoli.