Group investigating CMUD will soon issue findings

By Tom Roussey - bio l email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The head of a citizen task force investigating complaints of high water bills says his group will issue a report within a couple weeks.

Jim Duke says the group is not ready to release all the details yet, but he can say they've found widespread problems with CMUD.

"It's scary what's going on," Duke said.

Customers have been complaining of sudden, large jumps in their water bills.

The citizen task force was named in December and met for the first time in January.  It was selected by the mayor of Cornelius, and has a number of members with experience in water utilities.

The group originally planned to have a final report in March, but Duke says it will now be made public a lot sooner than that.

Duke said although his task force has found a lot of problems with CMUD, he gives the utility credit for honoring its promise to work with the task force.

CMUD says it is changing the way it operates, and will devote more resources to handling customer complaints.

"It's important customers have as much confidence in what they pay as the water they drink," said CMUD spokesperson Vic Simpson.

Doug Bean, the head of CMUD, announced Tuesday he will retire on March 1st.  CMUD says the recent complaints are not the reason, but Bean does say he wants to use the time he has left with the utility to address the complaints.

Some customers are skeptical of CMUD's plan to make changes.

"I think it's lip service," said Ron Zavodny, a South Charlotte resident who saw his bills suddenly spike in 2008.

Zavodny showed us a bill from the spring of 2008 where he was charged over $234.  But he says the month he was billed for, he and his wife were in Tahiti for two weeks and had shut the water off.

He then showed us a bill from the same month in 2009, when he says he and his wife stayed home -- and new, higher water rates were in place -- and the bill was $87.96.

He feels the bill from 2008, along with several others from that year, were wrong.

"There's no recourse here for the homeowner," Zavodny said.  "It's always, 'pay your bill.'"

Zavodny hopes the work the task force is doing ultimately leads to refunds for customers.

"I hope that we go down that road," he said.  "If not, I'm really losing faith in our local government."