DeKalb County to lift moratorium over unpaid water bills starting July 1

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — DeKalb County will start shutting off water to customers for nonpayment again for the first time since it imposed a moratorium on those cutoffs in 2016 after it admitted it couldn’t verify the accuracy of its own water bills.

DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond said they’ll lift that moratorium on July 1.

“There were thousands of residents and consumers who were frustrated and angry,” Thurmond said as he described taking over the problem when he took office in 2017. “This was agenda item No.1.”

Thurmond said he created the New Day Project to track down and resolve the issues surrounding incorrect water bills.

He said they found 45,000 water meters were defective and had to be replaced. He said while some people were getting outrageously high bills, other customers didn’t see bills for months.

He also said Watershed Management didn’t have enough people to handle the problems and didn’t pay those they did have enough money to stay.

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Now, he said, they corrected enough of the issues that what had been 4,000 customer billing complaints a month when he took office have dropped to 200 billing complaints a month.

That was enough, he said, to lead him to drop the moratorium and allow the county to start shutting off water again for nonpayment.

“We’re asking all of our customers who may be in arrears today to call our customer service center,” Thurmond said. “If you can’t pay the full amount of arrearage then please set up a repayment plan. We’ll be more than happy to work with you.”

But some people think the county needs to go even further.

Faye Cofield of Stonecrest believes the county ought to allow all its delinquent customers to start at zero.

“If you’re going to lift the moratorium, lift it with a zero balance,” Cofield said. “People are trying to hold on. Food is going up. Everything is going up. If I could say anything to the CEO, I would say hold off on the back money. Let’s start with the new money, and let’s try and work this out.”