NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) -For his young family of three, Ryan O’Shea says there’s no way they used 46,000 gallons of water in a single billing cycle. So, he did what the bill suggested and checked for leaks.
O’Shea is one of the thousands of Kenner residents who are receiving higher-than-average water bills this cycle. Jefferson parish water leaders explained how a staffing shortage of meter readers forced them to send out low-estimated bills during a summer cycle; a time where peoples’ water usage is generally higher.
“I think it’s more about just getting it right. If this is what we owe that’s fine, we’ll pay our bill. I just think things should be fair,” said O’Shea.
Jefferson Parish Councilman Dominick Impastato says his phone has been ringing off the hook.
He says he was not even aware of the staffing issue, and says he certainly wasn't notified of the decision to send out low-estimated bills.
“We’ve got a substantial amount of constituents if not all living paycheck to paycheck, fixed incomes, you can’t, you just cannot do what was done and send a couple months of low bills, then send one that was high. It’s not appropriate,” said Impastato.
A Jefferson Parish spokesperson says the parish has pledged they will not cut off water service as they re-read meters at residents’ request, implement payment plans, and waive all late fees and penalties. But Impastato says he wants to make sure this never happens again.
“These are peoples’ livelihoods and families whose lives are affected by the bills they receive each month by government services, so anytime we do something that puts their financial situation in jeopardy I think that's serious and I take it personally that's a problem,” said Impastato.
“I don’t think the residents of Kenner should be penalized for the fact they're understaffed,” said O’Shea.
O’shea says the answer for him is simple. He’s not going to pay until something gets fixed.
“I’m not an idiot either, when I see a bill that's not right I’m going to ask questions,” said O’Shea.
Citizens are still being directed to call the customer service line to request a meter to be re-read or to set up a payment plan.