Gulfport Council Tackles Orange Grove Water Woes

About a dozen Orange Grove residents bombarded Gulfport Council members and OPTECH with questions about their skyrocketing water and sewer bills. The residents have been complaining about their bills, since the city switched them from a flat montly rate of $53.43 to a metered rate.

Yolanda McArthur says "My bill in June was $453.00 and the amount of usage they said I used was 76,000 gallons. I'm a family of 3, there's no way that me and my children used 76,000 gallons".

Several residents say they don't mind paying metered bills, but they raised concerns about whether the meters worked properly and were read correctly. Edward Judy says "I was told I used 57,000 gallons of water over a 45 day period of time. How could I go back and verify the starting point for the meter? Do I base it solely on the meter readers"?

OPTECH representatives say of the meters they've checked so far, 95% were accurate. Still, many residents have their doubts. Yolanda McArthur says "I tried to test the meters. There is no leak. So, there is a problem, but I have a 453.00 bill that I can't afford".

Kathy Rielly says "I really believe there's something in the line in our subdivision. It's not just my home, we're talking 120 homes".

The residents face another dilemma. Their bills are due on Friday. L.J. Adams says "Is there going to be any penalty assessed, normally on the 5th? If you don't pay your bill, do you get a 5% penalty"?

Ward 1 Councilman Jimmie Jenkins made a motion to give residents who believe their bills are wrong some time to get their meters checked without being punished. Jenkens says "I recommend that we turn this over to the administration and come back to us with a recommendation next Tuesday.  Also, I ask that all fees, late charges, fees on checking meters that are in question, be waived". That motion won unanimous support.

Ward 5 Councilman Richard Rose also made a motion for city attorney Harry Hewes to ask the Attorney General for an opinion on what the city can do to resolve the matter. But, that motion was shot down.

By: Trang Pham-Bui