Jackson Opts for Hearings for Water Bill Complaints

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JACKSON—Residents now have a new process for appealing their water bills after the Jackson City Council passed an ordinance at the Aug. 20 meeting to allow administrative hearings for water- and sewer-bill complaints.

The city wants to hire a hearing officer with mediation experience to oversee appeals, Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba said at the meeting. When the City finds a potential candidate, officials will present him or her at a city council, and members will take a vote.

"The objective is to provide the most objective party that the city can put forward in this process," Lumumba said.

In 2013, Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr. signed a contract Siemens for $90 million to install new water meters and a new billing system for water and sewage services, along with physical upgrades to water and sewer lines and to the city's sewage-treatment plants. In the years since, Jackson residents have been plagued with errors in water and sewer billing, causing shortages in the City's revenue from these services.

How the New Process Works

In the past, city attorneys have handled water- and sewer-bill complaints and appeals while the council makes the final decision on whether a customer should pay the bill. The new process lets customers who want to dispute their bills submit a request for an administrative hearing with Witt before the due date of their final cutoff notice, an agenda packet from the city-council meeting said.

The manager will set a date for the hearing no more than 30 days after the customer's request and discontinue the cut-off process until the complaint is resolved. At the hearing, counsel can represent customers and present witnesses or other documents as support, but the manager will also be in attendance to offer a response.

The hearing officer will consider all evidence submitted to the hearing, and after no later than

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