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Oldsmar residents receive huge water bills amid pandemic

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OLDSMAR, Fla. (WFLA) – When Liseli Harloff opened her water bill this month, she nearly dropped to the floor. She lives in Oldsmar and her normal water bill is just under $120. This month’s bill was $1021.89.

“Panic set in, and then I thought, I’m sure this is wrong,” said Harloff. “Somebody just made a simple mistake.”

Walter Allison thought the same thing. He has two water meters, one for his home’s water, the other for his sprinkler system. One of his bills was more than four times normal.

He reached out on the Nextdoor app in Oldsmar to see if there were others that had the same issue.

“So far I’ve had 188, reach out to me saying they have issues,” so Allison reached out to the city. “They’ve reassigned their meter readers to do other tasks and the lady told me this is a catch-up bill.”

8 On Your Side reached out to City Manager Al Braithwaite who explains, during the pandemic, the city elected to use meter readers in the city to fill other roles, since a number of city employees were working from home.

They used an average water usage for each customer to bill while the meters weren’t being read. The problem arose when the meters were finally read. Some customers had used more water, since they were staying at home or working from home. The other issue: if customers had a water leak or a toilet that was running, they wouldn’t see it on their bill right away.

Braithwaite explains in some cases, customers were billed at a higher rate than they should have been, because their water usage appeared to be extreme. The city is handling each complaint on a case by case basis.

“And if you bring the bill to us, or ask us to review the bill, we’ll take a look at it and make sure everything is calculating the way it is supposed to,” said Braithwaite. “And obviously if it’s not we’ll correct it. “

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