Cartoon by John Harvey
It’s time for The City of Cambridge to get out of the bathrooms and kitchens of Cambridge Residents. Ever since Cambridge took over water-sewer billing Oct. 1, 2010 from Cambridge-North Dumfries Hydro City Hall has been flooded with complaints.
City staff considered contracting out water-sewer billing at first, but recommended the city take over the service because they felt the city could do it for a lower cost.
City Council went with staff’s recommendation, and complaints started pouring in. Between January and April of 2012 the water dept. fielded an average of 160 calls a day, and in May of 2012 the city had to hire three more staff to deal with complaints.
Ever since the inception of this billing there have been complaints about outrageous bills, some ten times a normal bill, with no reasonable explanations. The city doesn’t have any appeal process, but they will graciously arrange “payment plans.” The customer has no choice but to pay the bill.
The City’s decision to hold landlords responsible for a tenant’s delinquent account is also a bone of contention among city residents. A tenant can run a water bill to thousands of dollars, skip out, and the landlord has to pay it. The city is not allowed to contact the landlord when a tenant gets behind because of “privacy concerns.”
In 2012 water-sewer rates went up 10 per cent, and in 2013 rates rose 9.5 per cent. Landlords are being railroaded into paying for deadbeat tenants. The city had to hire 3 new staff just to deal with complaints. Customers are being extorted with no recourse.
The City of Cambridge handling of its own water billing is turning into a boondoggle of epic proportions, with no sign of it abating in the near future.
It’s time for the city to admit its incompetence and turn the billing over to a private company who is capable of running it like a business.