The Trenton Times published the following article on July 1, 2013. To read the full article, click here.
Trenton Water Works hires new meter readers, will send water bills that reflect actual usage
By Jenna Pizzi/The Times of Trenton
on July 01, 2013 at 8:11 PM, updated July 01, 2013 at 8:21 PM
TRENTON — Trenton Water Works customers will start to see water bills that reflect their actual usage, rather than the estimated bills that have appearing in their mailboxes, officials from the utility said.
Because of staffing issues, the water utility had to estimate the amount of water some customers were using because they did not have the manpower to send someone out to the home or business to determine the actual amount, said Joseph McIntyre, city sewer utility superintendent. McIntyre assured city council members at a budget hearing last week that the water utility — which services residents in Trenton as well as parts of Hamilton, Lawrence and Ewing — has recently hired a “new batch of meter readers” who are busy getting actual readings.
Some customers told the Times they have been receiving estimated bills for years.
“We are going to get meter readings and send out new bills,” McIntyre said.
The new “make-up” bills will reflect the difference between the cost of the actual water usage and the estimated amount customers had been paying, he said. In some cases the amount the customer owes may be higher than they were billed in the past.
That was true for Councilman Zachary Chester, who said he was shocked to open his water bill last month and see he owed $199.
“At my house, I have never been billed $199,” Chester said. He said he soon learned the reason the bill was higher than average was because Chester was paying his current bill, as well as another amount that would reflect his actual water usage from the previous quarter when he paid an estimated bill.
McIntyre said he regrets having to come back to customers to adjust their bills, either asking them to pay more or crediting them.
“That is not the way to do business and we want to avoid that,” he said.
To avoid issues like these in the future, McIntyre said the utility should move away from manual meter reading and install automatic meter readers that can send information to the utility.
“We have to not rely on people out on the street,” he said. “Eventually we are going to have to do away with all of that.”
Staffing problems have long been a problem in Water Works. In 2010, there were 129 vacant positions in the water utility after layoffs in the department. Earlier this year, there were 63 jobs unfilled.
Two laid-off Water Works employees, Edmund Johnson and Timothy London, allege they were fired because they provided information that led to the prosecution of Mayor Tony Mack’s half-brother Stanley “Muscles” Davis. Davis who was a supervisor at the utility, was convicted last year of performing side jobs with city employees and equipment.
At a job fair in April the city was accepting applications for four water meter reader/inspector positions, chemists, a laboratory technician, plant operators, mechanics and other vacant positions.
The water department generates millions of dollars, transferring up to 5 percent of its profits to the city’s operating budget.
Contact Jenna Pizzi at firstname.lastname@example.org or (609) 989-5717.