Public Works enforces late fee policy; residents concerned with changes

SUMMERVILLE, SC (WCSC) - People in Summerville say a new billing system with the Summerville Commissioners of Public Works is creating problems for them.

The general manager of CPW Chris Kahler says changes went into effect in September.

The billing procedures state water services may be discontinued if payment is not received before the due date in addition to a $30 late fee. The company says the policy has not changed but the enforcement has.

That means there is no longer a grace period and late fees go into effect the day after a missed payment.

Melissa Johnson says CPW shut off her water last week.

“I was putting dishes away. I went to wash my hands and nothing came out,” Johnson said.

It wasn’t because she couldn’t pay.

The day before she noticed unexpected late fees on her account and she tried to call to sort them out.

“Nobody would answer the phone. I kept getting a busy signal,” Johnson said.

So she went in person and found several others there at the same time with the same issue.

“In conversations that I’ve had with other residents in Summerville, some people have been alerted that their water will be disconnected in a given amount of time,” Johnson said. “Others like myself, had no idea, and also a lot of people who rely on getting that paper bill in the mail every month, if you’re not getting your bill you don’t know that it’s due.”

CPW says it alerted customers to the changes.

Some people say they haven’t been receiving billing statements in the mail.

CPW advised people to make sure their telephone numbers and mailing addresses are correct in the system. They also encourage people to have auto draft payments from their account. People can also sign up to have statements emailed to them and you can also view your statement online.

Johnson makes payments through her bank where she specifies for them to be delivered by the due date on her bill. She just learned her bills weren’t being processed before they were due.

CPW says they're currently working to update this process to make those types of transactions faster.

You can also submit payments online. Kahler says it takes about nine minutes to update an account balance.

For people who’ve expressed concern, CPW has offered to waive the first late fee for people with a good billing history.

Johnson says she was told the waived fee would apply to her, but she says it hasn’t been reflected in her account.

“They don’t even know they have a late fee until the next month’s bill comes around. At that point people are assessed two late fees because they have an outstanding late fee balance on their accounts,” Johnson said. “They need to change the dates. There are a lot of people who live paycheck to paycheck and they simply cannot make up the late fees.”

She’s hoping for more communication in the future and a five-day grace period.

CPW officials say prior to the changes some people could make payments more than two weeks late without a fee.

With the new changes late fees go in effect on a fixed date. There are four different billing cycles so customer’s bills are due on different days.

If you have any concerns about your bill you should reach out to the company.

They are located at 215 N. Cedar Street. You can reach them by phone at 843-871-0810.

Copyright 2018 WCSC. All rights reserved.

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