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Reality Check: Mobile man getting refund after bill mix up

(WPMI) Reality Check: Mobile man getting refund after bill mix up
(WPMI) Reality Check: Mobile man getting refund after bill mix up

An NBC 15 Reality Check is getting results.

A viewer told us he was being billed for trash service from a city he doesn't even live in.

After we stepped in, those bills are stopping.

Prichard Water not only promised to fix this problem, but review other cases to make sure nobody else gets stuck in the same situation.

"I am incredibly frustrated about the situation," said Christopher Pugh.

Christopher Pugh lives on College Street in Mobile, but on the other side of the street is the city of Prichard.

Mobile picks up Pugh's garbage can. He gets his water from Prichard Water.

Included on that water bill is $15 for Prichard Fire, Police and Public Works.

"Have been paying $15 for quite some time for services we never received," said Pugh.

It used to be all on one bill like this one with no details.

In December, Prichard Water Works and Sewer Department changed its billing and started sending separate bills for water and municipal fees.

That's when Pugh noticed the error and started trying to fix it.

"I've been continuously making efforts to get this released off my bills and get some resolution about it, and the more attempts I made the more resistant they've become," he said.

Pugh isn't the only one stuck in this situation. People on Reynolds Avenue are also paying the fee in error.

For Barnetta Bell, it's money that's been coming out of her pocket.

"It's money they are taking away from me and I have to pay bills and stuff," said Bell.

She relies on a caretaker and is hoping that bill stops being sent to her house.

"Refund my money back, that's all," said Bell.

Pugh says he too needs that extra money and wants answers.

"I don't have the money to be giving everybody $15 extra. I just don't. I just don't have it," said Pugh.

Monday, the general manager of Prichard Water thanked NBC 15 News for bringing this to their attention.

She said, "After reviewing the maps on Friday we determined in fact the property is not located in Prichard and should not be paying a city fee." It added, "Prichard Water is also evaluating two other streets bordering Mobile City limits to determine if there are any other properties affected."

Prichard Water says it doesn't use or hold the $15 but will make sure Mr. Pugh gets his refund.

The water board also says it will take a few weeks to figure out everyone else's situation, so customers don't need to call.

We will let you know the next steps.

A full statement on city fee billing was sent to NBC 15 on behalf of General manager Nia Bradley.

After being contacted by WPMI last week, Prichard Water board has been reviewing the documents and maps regarding the customer who claimed they do not live in Prichard. After reviewing the maps on Friday we determined that in fact the property is not located in Prichard and he should not be paying a city fee – even though the voter registration, tax bill and other utility service bills all show the mailing address as Prichard, Alabama. This is likely the reason our system never questioned his location.
We are working with our legal department to establish a refund policy to process a refund to this customer for his payments of these fees. We are also taking this opportunity to evaluate this street and two others in Prichard which border the city limits of Mobile to determine if there are any other properties where we need to make adjustments.
We appreciate WPMI contacting us on the customer’s behalf and we appreciate the patience of the customer. There is no reason for other customers to contact us at this time as we expect this to take a few weeks at which time we will reach back out to WPMI with a plan on how this will be remedied.
We would like to note that while we collect the fees for the city of Prichard, they are not our fees and these are not funds held or used by Prichard Water & Sewer Board. This fact complicates our ability to resolve this matter and can slow the refund process though we are 100% committed to refunding any overcharged fees paid by current customers.