Water A Hot Topic In Orange Grove

The debate over water bills was flowing in Gulfport on Tuesday night. Council members Billy Hewes and Chuck Teston sponsored a town hall meeting at the Orange Grove Community Center. Many of the citizens comments centered around water.

Residents complained to council members about high water bills, having boil their drinking water and repeated water leaks. Gulfport city leaders say they are turning to technology to solve some of those issues

"I go from a $250 water bill one month then I have a $40 dollar water bill, then I have a $100 water bill," complained an Orange Grove

Complaints about extremely high water bills have been common place in Orange Grove ever since Gulfport switched residents from a flat rate to meters. Optec handles the meter readings. Earlier this month company officials say they brought in two new employees in hopes of getting fresh ideas about how to handle billing disputes.

"She's got some good ideas with some electronic data collectors and things that will eliminate some of the errors in the meter reading process and also increase the efficiency by being able to computerize the reading instead of using hand entries," Optech's Bobby Kn

Boil water notices was another hot topic at the town hall meeting. Some residents say not enough is being done get the word out.

"The last time no one knew," Larry Gehrlein said. "We didn't k

City leaders say they're working toward an automated call out system that will alert residents by phone of potential problems in their neighborhoods.

"It will give us much more effective, immediate notification rather than a next day notification say in the paper or the signs that someone may have to drive by," Public Works Director Kris Rie

Riemann says he expects the $25,000 phone alert system to go on line in the next 6 to 9 months. Optech's new system will alert staff to any unusually high or low meter readings. Company officials say they will then inspect for leaks or broken meters before the bill comes out.