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Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities chief stepping down

The director of Charlotte Mecklenburg Utilities today announced he's stepping down in one month. Criticism over unusually high water bills and poor customer service have made the last month a difficult episode in Doug Bean's 16-year tenure as head of the utilities department. WFAE's Julie Rose reports: Doug Bean insists his decision to retire as Utilities director on March 1st has nothing to do with the ongoing controversy over how the department has handled customers with complaints of mysteriously high water bills. "I had intended to retire this year anyway and it only makes sense - and I think it's fair - for somebody to be able to put their mark on this year's budget and look at things perhaps a little differently with resources and the types of rate issues that we have," says Bean. The budget process starts in March, so Bean says he'll step aside then. Meantime, he won't have to worry about impending budget cuts, so he'll have more time to focus on getting to the bottom of the high water bill issue and recommending some changes to the system. But many, including Cornelius Mayor Jeff Tarte, believe Bean is falling on his sword as an answer to the controversy. "I would definitely describe it as completely unfortunate," says Tarte. "I think he's a good person. It's just that, you know, somebody's being held accountable." Tarte has nothing but praise of the way Bean has handled recent complaints, which originated with a group of Cornelius residents. "He's been totally approachable, very open, very sharing of information," says Tarte. But, he doesn't think the utilities department has fully identified the water bill issue or implemented changes that will solve it. Bean, who is 59 years old, says he plans to stay in Charlotte and will continue teaching in the School of Government at UNC Chapel Hill.