Gulfport Council Bickers Over Water Bills Again

Ward 7 Councilman Billy Hewes introduced the motion Tuesday, asking the council to reimburse customers whose waters bills exceeded the flat rate of $53.00 during the two months they weren't notified about the billing change.

Hewes said "The people of Orange Grove weren't notified properly. They're just asking for an adjustment for two months, and I think we owe it to the citizens. We're not doing right by them".

But some council members say if the city has to adjust the excessive bills for April and May, the city could lose about $100,000.

Ward 4 Councilman Kim Savant said "I don't know how we can afford this, given the budget constraints that we have. I don't know how we make it fair across the board".

Ward 1 Councilman Jimmie Jenkins said "I'm not in favor of giving nobody back nothing that they're not due. If they're due it, we've instructed the administration to handle that on an individual basis".

But Councilmen Hewes and Richard Rose say an attorney general's opinion, gives the city the right to reimburse the higher bills. City attorney Harry Hewes disagreed. He says based on past opinions by the A.G.'s office, the city can't charge some customers a flat rate, and others a metered rate.

Five council members agreed with Attorney Hewes' legal advice.  They shot down the motion to forgive those water bills and reimburse the customers.

Gulfport 6 Councilman Chuck Teston said "To go back and to forgive bills for select people, you're going to open up a box that you will never close.  Every other area in the city of Gulfport is going to come and say I want my bill adjusted".

The city of Gulfport and OPTECH will continue to do what they've been doing for the past three months, when it comes to disputed bills. They will adjust those charges on a case-by-case basis.