SAN DIEGO (NEWS 8) — The recent audit on the city's sky-high water bills was under review Monday. The San Diego City Council's audit committee held a special meeting to look into it after more than 2,700 incorrect water bills were sent out last year.
In that special meeting Monday morning, the committee reviewed performance audits on the Public Utilities Department's water billing operations. This all comes months after hundreds of San Diego residents were over charged for water usage.
“We need to do a complete assessment – a route assessment – of the meter-reading routes [to see] how many routes should be read in an eight-hour period, and how many are being read today," said Deputy Chief Operating Officer of Public Works Johnny Perkins.
Perkins took over the position two weeks ago and agrees with the recommendations in the audit which include twice yearly reviews of implausible readings, re-evaluation of meter-reading routes, an increased review of meter-reading accuracy and notifying customers in advance of changes that will raise their bills, so they have time to prepare.
The outcry over incorrect meter readings is one News 8 has investigated from the beginning. Throughout the last year it came to light that 10 meter-readers were responsible for 71 percent of the errors. Even without meter-reading errors many customers will still have to pay higher bills: a 2.16% rate increase for the fiscal year 2019 goes into effect Aug. 1, but still Perkins says they’ll do their best to become the gold standard for customer service. “We plan to implement the recommendations by the first of the year, at least the majority of those," said Perkins.
He also said the department plans to look at customer service and how long it takes customers to get through and get assistance. Perkins said they want to improve in those areas as well. The City Council has approved annual rate increases. According to the Public Utilities Department, they catch most potential errors before customers are billed.
Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the water rate increase would be 5%, effective in July.