Jackson residents react to city's response on unpaid water bills - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Jackson residents react to city's response on unpaid water bills

Jackson residents who have not been receiving water bills will soon have to pay up. Source: WLBT Jackson residents who have not been receiving water bills will soon have to pay up. Source: WLBT
Jackson residents who have not been receiving water bills will soon have to pay up. Source: WLBT Jackson residents who have not been receiving water bills will soon have to pay up. Source: WLBT
JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Jackson residents who have not been receiving water bills will soon have to pay up.

The City of Jackson hosted a news conference Monday afternoon announcing it will release over 20,000 water bills currently unreleased within the city’s system.

READ MORE: City of Jackson announcing payment plan for unpaid water bills

Public Works Director Robert Miller describes the situation as burdensome for Jackson residents.

“At best, all they have gotten is another water bill and at worst they haven’t gotten a water bill at all or got an incorrect water bill,” Miller said. “Once we get this fixed, I’m going to up our communications capabilities to our customers, so they can see the full benefit of this system because it really has some nice capabilities.”

However long residents have not been billed for service, is how long they will have to pay back the unpaid amount.

"I think that's ridiculous," said Jackson resident Anasthia Johnson. "I mean, they knew there was a problem months ago. Many people were going up there saying they didn't have water bills and they were saying do not pay. Now, for you to get a big bill, it could be like $2,000. It could be really ridiculous. At this point, they have so many issues with the city government, I just hope they take this as a wakeup call. At this point, get it fixed. We're just tired of dealing with it."

Miller said instead of going by typical meter-use, this system will allow customers to see exactly how much water they’ve used.

Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said some Jackson residents who normally get water bill have chosen not to pay their bills because they know there are issues with the billing system, and those residents could be at risk of having service cut to their homes.

In other circumstances, Lumumba said some places may not have a meter and the city will have to look into why that is.

“The final consequence is if you don’t pay for the service, you won’t get the service,” Miller said. “First, we have to provide assurances to our elected officials and to our citizens that the system is working correctly. We have those citizens that have affordability issues and we know that there are many folks here in Jackson that are struggling with affordability. So, we want to make sure we have reasonable and appropriate payment plans. We want a termination of service to be the last resort.”

Jackson resident James Pruitt said he feels this could create a hardship for many Jacksonians. 

"It's probably going to hurt a lot of people," Pruitt said. "Now who dropped the ball, I don't know but it seems like they need to come up with a better way to correct that."

There’s no word on an exact timeline for the city begin repairing the system, Miller said that depends on the benchmarks in a contract the Jackson City Council approved.

However, Miller said he expects the billing to be complete within six months and for the collection process to be complete within the next year.

Miller also addressed the lack of city employees to do the work and said there are plans to hire more workers, and they will also look into hiring people from hiring agencies and work with them to fill the positions.

“We needed to move forward at this time because at the pace we were burning through our savings, we were running the risk of some very dire consequences that can take place when a utility does run out of money,” Miller said.

Mayor Lumumba praised the city council for approving the contract and Miller and the public works department for working to address an issue the mayor said has plagued the city for several months. 

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