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Mississippi city residents questioning utility bill changes

A coastal Mississippi city’s residents are worrying about the growing cost and sporadic delivery of their utility bills.

People in Gulfport say they’re seeing spikes in what they owe and billing cycles for water, sewer and garbage collection that cover differing lengths of time beyond the usual 30 days.

Loretta Howard told The Biloxi Sun Herald that she received a $213 utility bill this month. It covered 43 days and greatly exceeded the $39.42 she paid each month from March through August.

“I’m on a limited income,” the 88-year-old said. “If I pay that bill, it means I’m going to be short on groceries.”

The sporadic billing also is problematic for residents who have the charges automatically deducted from their checking accounts.

“I’ve had no success getting any answers or information,” said Marley Walker. “Why didn’t they take the time to send a notice letting the people know what was going on?”

Walker said his bill grew 92% for the extended billing period, while one of his neighbors saw a 59% increase.

The city’s public information officer LaShaundra McCarty said register heads are broken on some electronic meters and being replaced, which could delay billing since some meters have to be read manually. The newspaper reports the full $4.2 million replacement project could take years.

McCarty suggested a bill as high as Howard’s could involve a leak. She said the city hopes to replace temporary workers in the water department with two permanent full-time employees who can respond to calls and emails from residents.

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Information from: The Sun Herald, http://www.sunherald.com

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