NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Angry customers grilled water company executives Thursday night after getting bills that have doubled, even tripled.
“I got the bill and I nearly dropped dead. The month before was $81. This was $281,” said Barbara Levits.
Tensions building from the sky-high water bills spewed out during a more than three-hour public meeting at East Rockaway High School. Three executives from New York American Water were forced to hear customers’ horror stories.
“Our salaries haven’t doubled, but my water bill doubled – some of them tripled. And we’re all on fixed income,” one man said.
“It’s really obscene,” said Pearl Bluth, who showed her water usage went down by 5,000 gallons, yet her bill went up.
“We are sympathetic to that, and if there’s some sort of payment schedule we can work on,” New York American Water Chief Operating Officer William Varley said before he was cut off by the crowd’s boos.
Varley said customers were notified with their billing statements last year after a conservation rate was approved – intended to drive down usage during the peak summer months.
“It will cost the village $167,480 this fiscal year for rental of hydrants. Again, more than we budgeted, due to the late notice of the rate increase,” said Village of Malverne Mayor Patricia Ann Noris-McDonald.
“We have heard the concerns and we’ve made a commitment now that we’re going to investigate all the issues around the charges with the meters, but we’ve got a good takeaways, it’s always good to hear the customer’s perspectives,” Varley told CBS2’s Lisa Rozner as he was leaving the meeting.
“It’s a three hour public meeting. Come on, that’s enough,” a company representative said, cutting him off.
Finance expert Jordan Goodman said it’s rare to see a water company increase bills by more than four percent.
“Water use goes down slightly, but not by that much if rates go up. A lot of things people do with water is pretty much something they have to do anyway – they’re washing the dishes, taking showers, the washer machine,” he said.
New York State Sen. Todd Kaminsky organized Thursday’s meeting with state regulators.
“We have to get the Public Service Commission to open up a case and see if that rate hike was applied correctly and was even justified in the first place,” he said.
Many customers said they want to see the goverment take over the company and this mess.