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Some Beauregard Water Authority customers feel like "hostages" as high water bills pour in

Beauregard, Ala. (WRBL) - Several Beauregard Water Authority customers are upset and outraged they're being forced to pay astronomical water bills because of an installation problem they didn't create.  

Customers tell News 3 when the water authority began switching out old meters to electronic meters many were improperly installed causing leaks and higher water bills. Customers say they didn't create the problem, but they're being forced to pay for it.
    
Faith Lake is one of several customers who saw her water bill spike at the first of the year.   She called Beauregard Water Authority to report a possible leak and says they sent out a worker.
 
"He told me in front of my roommate it was a leak from where they had put in the new meter," Lake said.

Lake believed the water authority would adjust her bill. However, she says employees refused to take action when she called. Lake says a water authority employee told her the worker never confirmed an installation problem.

"I have been out here and tried a couple of different times to discuss it with them. I am told either pay my bill, or they will turn it off, or I can come to the board meeting and talk to them. Well, my bill is $205, and it's normally $35 a month, and it is due on the 11th.  The board does not meet until the 26th of this month.  What am I supposed to do? Go without water for two weeks or come up when an extra $170 to pay which I don't have and very few people do." questioned Lake.

Lake paid a private plumber $75 to fix her leak.   
      
"He said you got one of the new meters, and when they put the shut-off valve on they wrenched it too tight, and it split, causing it to run constantly.  The water authority is telling me it's on my side and I am responsible for it.  However, the people they hired to put on the new meter are the ones that did it," said Lake.
 
Lake isn't alone. Angela Ware and her husband experienced the same problem.

"Our meter was replaced in a standard way, we thought,  and it had a leak. We got a bill for that month that was $240, our bills for 15 years is always around $40 a month. They said they would reduce our bill and our water would not be cut off until the adjustment happened. Well, our water was cut off.  So we had to pay the bill plus a $50 additional fee to have it reconnected," explained Ware.

Joshua Morrison had the same issue. This weekend he received a $111 bill. Usually, his statement is $20. Morrison shared a video of his meter leak with News 3 and

"This is a problem, this dude did not tighten the nut down when he changed my water meter, and I am going to have to pay for this, I think not. This is not my fault," he said.

Morrison is a plumbing apprentice and says the water authority told him they'd adjust his bill, but he remains skeptical.

The Beauregard Water Authority board says concerned citizens are encouraged to share their concerns at the next board meeting, which will be held at the Beauregard Water Authoirty on February 26th at 5PM central time.
 

Kimberly Barron had the same issue. Her bill was $180 compared to $25 a  month like she usually receives.  Unlike many customers, Barron did receive a one-time adjustment. We asked Barron why she thinks she received a modification.

"I don't know. I guess it depends on the mood they are in when you call, I guess," Barron said.
      
News 3 tried to ask why some customers were receiving help and others were not. We are also tried learning the name of the sub-contractor hired to replace the meters. However, the Water Authority refused to issue a statement.  Employees at the Water Authority did call the Lee County Sheriff's Office as we met with residents outside their offices on Tuesday.

Daniel Long, who says he works with the Beauregard Water Authority in maintenance asked News 3 and the customers to leave the property unless we were conducting business. He also asked us to address our questions at the Water Board Meeting, set for February 26th.

With that, the customers went home with zero answers.  Lake says she feels like a hostage in her town.

"We live pay check to pay check you know we are on a budget.  When your bill is five times as high, you get no compassion, no answers and nobody wants to help you. What about folks on a fixed income, are they going to turn off their water," Lake questioned.  

Hare says her family should not have to pay for a mistake the Water Authority made when installing the new meters.

"We want fairness. We aren't asking for nothing more, just the money back for something that wasn't our fault," Ware said.  

A Board of Directors runs the Beauregard Water Authority.  Members are paid $300 a month and have total control of operations,  despite being appointed by the Lee County Commission.
   

News 3 spoke with two board members who refused to comment until the board meeting. We also spoke with Lee County Commissioner Robert Ham,  who says he is looking into the situation and will get us some answers. News 3 will keep you updated.
 

The Beauregard Water Authority board says concerned citizens are encouraged to share their concerns at the next board meeting, which will be held at the Beauregard Water Authoirty on February 26th at 5PM central time.

 


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