Sanford replacing 25,000 water meters, warns of changes in billing

The City of Sanford is changing its water meters. With these new receivers, customers will be able to see their usage almost daily.

The city will receive leak alarms and high usage alerts, and the readings and reports should be very helpful and much more accurate. However, the city warns that there could be some headaches as those are installed.

The city is changing 25,000 of these water meters. The old ones have been in the ground for over a decade, and Sanford Utility Support Manager Bill Marcous says they just aren’t working.

"The bottom line is, funny things happen when you stick a computer in the ground."

FOX 35 started investigating this after talking with a man named Dennis Kennedy, who got a $360 bill after years on end, consistently paying around $70.

"That seems like they’re billing me for everything I’ve used since the day they turned it on."

After that report aired, emails started pouring into FOX 35. Jeff Jaques told us he once had to pay a $1,000 bill while the City sorted out what he actually owed. Another viewer said they got a $1,200 bill once when they usually pay around $90 monthly.

The Utility Department’s website has an FAQ section that addresses what to do if you receive an unusually high bill. It’s a common problem right now.

"It might come from a manual reading where we've gone out in the field, and we say, ‘Oh, by the way, there's been a lot more usage than we've been able to report from the meter,’" explained Marcous.

The city says many customers may receive bills that surprise them as the new meters are installed and readings start getting more accurate.

They’re asking you to bear with them and promising to work with you.

"If all that water is charged on one month, it would be very, very high. So we try to take that in consideration to make it a reasonable accommodation," Marcous said. "But we do have to charge for the water."

The City expects this project will take 18–24 months to complete.