As frustrations boil, Copperas Cove residents respond to water company audit

Posted at 1:58 PM, Sep 24, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-24 14:58:52-04

From multiple bills in one month to meter readings of thousands of gallons used in one day, many Copperas Cove residents say this is the last straw for the city's water service.

In a response to these concerns, the city recently announced they will examine a portion of FATHOM customer's utility accounts from a billing perspective. 

Alexis Rivas, Copperas Cove mom of two and wife to disabled military veteran Edward Rivas, said she needs her water. 

"We pay our bills on the first of the month every month," said Alexis Rivas.

When she paid her bill on Aug. 1, her bill was a little over $200. 

 "On Aug. 15 I got in the mail a disconnection notice for $140.48. When I called them, they said that they didn't even know where the $204 came from," Alexis Rivas said. "I stayed on the phone with them for about 45 minutes. They looked around so they say and said, either way, I had to pay the $140 or it was going to be disconnected."

Alexis Rivas said she paid the bill using money set aside for groceries.

Last summer when they paid their initial bill and did not pay that disconnection notice, her family went an entire week without water. 

"I was going to Walmart and buying the gallon jugs of water and that's how I would fill the toilet," Edward Rivas said. "That's how I would make sure the kids had water."

This morning Alexis and her husband gathered with five other Copperas Cove residents who said they too have had issues since the city partnered with FATHOM Water Systems in 2016.

 "I've been mindful of my time in the shower. I get in, I get out quickly. So how am I using more than a thousand gallons a month? It makes no sense," said Copperas Cove resident Rosanne Bennett. 

Resident Marie Luper said over the last three months she has seen an increase in water usage on her bill.

"One month it jumped by 4,200 gallons," Luper said. "The next month it jumped by 13,246 gallons. This past month the total gallons of usage was 25,315."

She said she had someone check for leaks and there were no leaks. 

When she had someone check her meter, they said there was nothing wrong with her meter.

In efforts to respond to concerns, the city recently decided to use a third-party auditor to inspect 1 percent of FATHOM customer's utility accounts from a billing perspective. 

Auditors will examine billing, meter readings, adjustments, corrections, payments made/applied and the consistency of Solid Waste to Water accounts. 

 "I am glad that we've got some attention called to the issue and that something is being done, however, I do remain skeptical about the results of that audit," said Copperas Cove resident Terri Deans.

Jason Bethke, President of FATHOM Water Systems, recommends residents use the FATHOM online portal to track their water usage. 

"Sign up for the web portal and sign up for the alerts so that if they are experiencing a high water use event that they know about it early," said Bethke.

Bethke also expressed that he empathizes with customers and welcomes the audit. 

"As more information comes into the city on billing amounts and revenue and things of this nature, the city would be able to take other action if they choose to address the issue of you know how affordable the water is," said Bethke via phone call. 

Alexis hopes to see action and also keep her water on. 

"It's heartbreaking I have two kids and having to explain that to two kids, it's embarrassing," said Alexis Rivas.

The audit will cost $16,000 and that money will come from the City of Copperas Cove water and sewer fund. 

Copperas Cove city staff said once they receive the results of the audit they will decide if a more in-depth audit should be required. 

The audit is expected to be completed by the end of November 2018.

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