By: Sharon Aron Baron
Caryn Nesser was shocked when she opened April water bill and discovered it was $956.
Nesser, a resident of Parkland Golf & Country Club, typically is billed around $150 a month for her family of three.
“I thought there must have been some kind of error in billing. I walked around the house and checked to make sure nothing was running, and that there weren’t any leaks,” she said. “The second thing I did was call North Springs Water District and left a message.”
Caryn left the message on Friday, April 7 and said she never received a phone call back.
According to their website, 40,000 residents in both Coral Springs and Parkland are provided water service from the North Springs Improvement District (NSID) and many have seen their water bills double, or even triple, in the past couple months. Many residents, like Nesser, have been sharing stories of their outrageous bills on social media platforms like Facebook and NextDoor.
Broward County Commissioner Michael Udine first started reading about the issue on social media a few months ago, then began receiving hundreds of emails from residents in Wyndham Lakes, Kensington, Parkland Golf & Country Club, Heron Bay and Watercrest.
“Resident don’t realize that these water districts are separate governmental entities with elected boards. As a county commissioner, I have zero oversight, but I’d like to see them do what’s right, and right now I feel there is a disconnect with the residents.”
On April 11, he wrote NSID District Manager Doug Hyche:
Dear Mr. Hyche:
Our office has received numerous inquiries over the last few days concerning the drastic increase in water bills directed to our mutual constituents. The complaints center around a drastic rise in water bill rates after the new meters were installed on their property. The residents have asserted that their bills have doubled or even tripled as compared to the previous year’s comparable month’s bill.
Could you please provide my office with an update on any irregularities that have occurred in relation to the meter “switchover/upgrade” that was recently installed and any remedies the district may be implementing to rectify billing issues with customers. If there have not been any issues with the upgrade, could you please provide an alternate explanation for the rise in water bills that customers are experiencing.
NSID responded to Udine:
The District would like to assure you, and the residents, that we are continuously monitoring and check ing all meters for irregularity in relation to the meters that were recently installed. A small percent of one type of meter was found to be misreading, which caused some residents to be under billed, not over billed. The affected residents were charged the monthly base fee only, and not for their actual consumption. The District has ben continuously monitoring and replacing that type of meter.
Furthermore, the high water usage could be due to a few reasons such as; irrigation settings, leaks and the span of the billing cycles.
Nesser’s bill showed that she used 106,190 gallons of water in April versus 21,238 in March and NSID pointed out that she was watering everyday. She said that even with her sprinklers set for ten minutes for each zone, there was no way she could use that much water.
“It shouldn’t cost you hundreds of dollars to water your lawn. It shouldn’t be that much,” said Udine.
He said that in the letter, NSID also claims that faulty meters are primarily to blame for the increases.
“That’s their only job, and you mean to tell me their meters weren’t working?”
Udine said that their response shows that they changed out what they knew to be hundreds of faulty water meters with newer models. They did this knowing that bills would drastically increase without any notice to the public.
“They seem to be saying that the residents are taking advantage of the district and now the meters have been fixed and using too much water.”
Nesser wasn’t sure if she had even received a new meter. She said when Udine contacted NSID, hers was one of the highest bills. They have since agreed to give her a one-time reduction for $200.
Udine said he is also concerned that only those residents that personally contact NSID are getting relief. However, there have been instances where residents have had several hundred dollars taken off, and some have been told they have to pay it or their water will be shut off.
“They seem to be pacifying the end users, and the people that complain the loudest, but what about the people that don’t realize theirs is an issue?”
While there is no resolution yet, Udine hopes to look into it further and make sure there is some kind of reassurances the residents will be billed correctly.
“It’s so inefficient that everyone needs to call them to get resolution. There has to be a reason why there isn’t any consistency here.”
Meeting schedule for NSID here.