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Salem, Mo. utility customers given three options to pay utility bills covering multiple months

(KY3)
Published: Jun. 3, 2020 at 9:42 PM CDT
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Many people in Salem, Missouri are getting a serious case of sticker shock after opening their utility bills.

"We just now got our bills, after three months. That is ridiculous," Crystal Kiddy exclaimed.

People can't believe what they owe after opening their utility bills.

"I show it to my sister-in-law and we are just like in shock, we're mad, we're like okay, what're we going to do," Ariana Bote-Biggs told KY3.

The billing mess began last November as the city decided to spend $1.4 million to replace roughly 4,700 water and electric meters across town.

The first time the city tried to read the new meters, the data wouldn't sync with the city's billing software.

Since then, readings have had to be manually pulled then calculated for billing.

Now, the beginning of June, customers are receiving three months worth of utility bills and in some cases owing thousands of dollars.

"We've got basically usage for the months of February, March and April that we are behind on," City Administrator Ray Walden explained.

The city doesn't expect everyone to pay it all back at once.

It's giving them several options, including paying in full now and getting a rebate on the next bill or setting up a payment plan.

"I honestly think that they should make a better option for people with lower income," Bote-Biggs said.

"You read on the back and it's so confusing. This isn't right, this isn't fair to us in Salem, Kiddy added. I have no choice right now but to be on the payment options."

"We look forward to delivering the full-capabilities of the system. We hope you find one of the options fits your specific situation," Walden said.

The city says more than 300 water meters still need to be installed, but batteries for those meters are sitting on a loading dock in China.

Residential customers will see the following payments options for their May bills:

1. An incentive rebate credit of 5% to pay for utility usage through 04/30/2020 if paid by 06/12/2020 (this date could be extended for those customers receiving May bills later in June).

2. An option for budget billing based on past usage and the outstanding balance through 04/30/2020.

3. A third option with the May bill based on actual usage for April 2020 along with a payment plan for the outstanding usage through 03/31/2020 spread over 12 months.

Once the meters are all installed and the kinks are worked out, the city says the new meters will have numerous benefits, including:

Ability to pay online

Ability to check current utility consumption

Able to notice leaks quicker

Helps the city find outages or interruptions in service

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