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Glitch pumps up water bills

April 04, 2007|by KAREN HANNA

HAGERSTOWN - Some property owners who are feeling soaked by cost increases can blame a computer glitch for water and sewer bills from the City of Hagerstown that are higher than normal.

Because of a software problem, some customers' Chesapeake Bay restoration fee charges were 180 times higher than what they actually owe, City of Hagerstown Director of Finance Alfred Martin said Tuesday. City employees caught the mistake Friday afternoon, but 220 bills with the erroneous math were mailed that morning.

"Instead of charging what it should have, it charged 180 times what it should have charged," Martin said.

Martin said he does not know how much the overcharges are worth, or if anyone has paid the wrong amount.

Bills with the appropriate charges were sent Monday, and anyone who paid too much will be issued a check, he said.

Martin said the bills were sent to people with multi-family or commercial properties on the city's south side.

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The bay restoration fee is $7.50 a quarter per equivalent dwelling unit. Martin said the glitch caused that amount to be multiplied by 180.

City Councilwoman Penny M. Nigh said a couple of people called her over the weekend about the bills. While they were not irate, the customers could have had a "heart attack" looking at the huge amounts, she said.

City Councilwoman Alesia Parson-McBean also said a few customers called her, but she said they realized the bills were in error, since the amounts were so high.

"What's a little disturbing is that they haven't been able to tell us exactly what happened here that caused this to blow up on these particular bills," Martin said.

The City of Hagerstown charges customers on a rolling basis. Martin said about 25,000 customers pay for water and sewer services from the City of Hagerstown.

People with questions about their bills may call the billing and customer service department at 301-790-4160.

Staff writer Dan Dearth contributed to this story.

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