Wednesday, February 3, 2010

CMUD Director Still In Denial

It seems Doug Bean and City Council still have their collective heads in the sand. But the issue with the management, billing and customer service at CMUD is bigger than anyone every suspected. It is a Tsunami of unimaginable proportions that is just over the horizon and its heading towards Charlotte at an alarming pace.

Doug Bean CMUD director has done a great job at $167,000 a year of fooling everyone. But with his retirement comes the understanding the CMUD is a house of cards and it is about to come crashing down.

This is how the scam worked.

Prior to 2002 meters were read by hand. A CMUD "meter reader" opened up the box at the end of your driveway and put the numbers into a hand held computer. A a week or so later you got a bill.

For years this method worked just fine. But Charlotte's growth put stresses on the system and meter reading became a game of catch up. Sometimes your meter wasn't read at all and so the City of Charlotte just guessed without you ever knowing.

You might have suspected, that your July bill when you spent 3 weeks at the beach was a little odd since it was the same as June but the extra $30 was not a big deal and life went on.

To meet the demands of a rapidly expanding city, Doug Bean contracted with a company to automate the meter readings. The conversion process was slow and problems where wide spread. The selection process as Cedar Posts understands was simple Bean interviewed one vendor and the deal was done.

But the new electronic meter had major issues. Issues CMUD kept quiet about because the errors were rather small no one really paid attention. Sometimes your meter was read correctly and you got a factual bill but just as often you got a phony bill, too high or too low. But Bean's staff figured you would not notice and it would "self adjust" in the future months. The truth is in many cases it did.

But left in the wake of these water bill spikes were people who didn't have the extra $30 to pay to cover the over read or the adjustment for months of under readings. Single mothers to whom 30 dollars is enough to put dinner on the table for three nights.

Tenants who moved who got a final bill that was just a guess. New tenants who had to play catch up on a water bill that had been a guess now threatened with having their water cut off.

But greed is a bad thing, and once CMUD added tiered pricing the public was getting screwed. The budget at CMUD doubled as Charlotte grew and tiered pricing helped pay the way to expand the system. The only trouble was every time a meter "over read" it kicked customers into a higher rate in many cases to the highest rate. An adjustment the following month credited back the over read, with an under read but at the lower rate. What was left over became known at CMUD at the skim.

It will take a full, in depth and costly audit to determine the full amount of the skim, but a rough guess would be something around 40 million over the last ten years.

CMUD had bigger issues to worry about, the growing city was straining the system and the 2007 drought made Charlotte's water source for the first time look threatened.

Duke Power and Mother Nature controlled the water flow and it was getting low and low fast.

With mandatory water restrictions Charlotte learned to do with less, but CMUD didn't make any cuts to balance the loss of revenue. CMUD failed to think the whole thing through and made no cuts to staff or capital improvements.

Instead they sent the blame back to the customers in the form of a temporary rate increase. An increase that is now permanent and it was this rate increase and the conservation measures put in place by the customers that made everyone pay attention to their water bills.

But still CMUD management stonewalled and lied.

Now Doug Bean is getting all the accolades of a professor's retirement from a great institution in fact he plans to continue to teach at Chapel Hill.

And he is still in denial stating that people who water their lawn frequently might have received sticker shock when opening their bill.

Once it is all fixed CMUD customers will be left to pick up the tab, and CMUD has also failed to understand future growth, a system that is ill suited to handle another booming growth period the money and the water source is just not there and Bean knows this as well.

Doug Bean knows the truth, this has been a scam, the current system can not support future growth that now has come from Darkness to Light and he's running for cover.

Thanks Doug Bean happy retirement!

Think your meter is wrong? You will find some expect advice here that may help.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

CP I'll assume you got one of the really big bills in the last year?

You sound a little angry today.

What's up with that?