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High water bill task force to present report at Cornelius Town Hall

Tonight a group of Cornelius citizens will publicly present the findings of a two month investigation into unusually high water bills among Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities customers. Water rates, faulty equipment and poor customer service are their key complaints. The report put together by a volunteer group of Cornelius residents is critical of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Utilities Department. And yet, utilities spokesman Vic Simpson says, "We're looking forward to the stakeholders report, to learn more and to find new opportunities to improve." The stakeholder group formed in December after dozens of Cornelius residents complained of dramatic spikes in their water bills. Hundreds of similar complaints from around the county soon poured in. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities investigated each of the Cornelius reports and found most were a result of plumbing leaks or people just using more water. But Cornelius residents weren't satisfied with that response, so they've spent the last two months studying the issue. Their report faults the way CMUD adjusted its rates during the drought to penalize people who use more water. The Cornelius group also singles out problems with the electronic transmitters that sit on top of water meters and beam billing data back to the utilities department. Simpson admits more than half of CMUD's 250,000 transmitters are old models that have about a 6 percent chance of inaccuracy. "But even with the oldest technology and even with the higher failure rate on the old models, it is still a better accuracy rate and better efficiency than the old way of doing things," says Simpson. The "old way" required utilities employees to check each meter and enter water usage data by hand. Simpson says that system was wrong 7 or 8 percent of the time. He says CMUD has not ruled out the possibility of replacing the older transmitters in one swoop. But so far, the department has focused it's response on improving processes within the department and assigning more staff to inspect reports of high bills. The citizens' water bill task force will present its findings to the public at Cornelius Town Hall tonight at 5 p.m.