KCTV5 investigates bizarre water bills, bring about change - KCTV5

KCTV5 investigates bizarre water bills, questions bring about policy change

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KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -

A steady stream of questions from the KCTV5 News investigative team appears to have spurred on a major policy change by the Kansas City, MO, Water Services Department that could finally stop the flow of bills to the one in eight city customers who are not using water.

After 45 years, the agency says it will no longer require residents to pay the cost of digging up their own pipes in order to permanently disconnect from the system.

That change, which could save more than 21,000 customers approximately $3.5 million, comes as welcome news to Kansas City, MO, resident Simmie Crawford. He contacted KCTV5 in early January, confused and upset about the two water service bills he had suddenly received. He said his parents made a request to cancel water service to their home in the Leed's neighborhood back in the 1980s.

"Now I'm getting a water bill, and that's what I don't understand," Crawford said. "The water's been shut off for 33 years."

Crawford said his parents made a request to cancel water service to their eastside home. He said he had no idea that in order to stop all water charges, customers like his parents needed to dig up their pipes to the water main. Since they didn't do that, the inactive account can still accrue monthly service fees.

"The only thing they are doing is taking money out of your pocket," Crawford said.

A city water services spokesperson told KCTV5 late last year, the city decided to dust off inactive accounts and see if they could collect the outstanding fees. The bills went out without warning or explanation, catching people like Crawford by surprise.

Over in the Waldo neighborhood, Betty Pugh was quite surprised to say the least when a bill landed in her mailbox. It's been 15 years since Pugh and her husband had the house next door knocked down to increase the couple's outdoor space.

"We just needed a backyard," Pugh said. "What did we have - about 4 feet of yard in the backyard?"

Since that house was bulldozed, no water has been used at the property. Pugh couldn't imagine why she would be receiving a huge water and sewer service bill for the vacant lot.

"I was kind of shocked," Pugh said. "We had never received a bill. We called, didn't get any help whatsoever. And then my husband talked to someone and they said, ‘You're just going to have to pay that.'"

Unable to convince anyone at KCMO Water customer service that their backyard could not flush a toilet or access a tap, Pugh who lives on a fixed income, paid the bills totaling more than $940.

"It doesn't seem to make any sense," KCTV5 investigative reporter, Eric Chaloux stated while looking over the water bills.

"No, it didn't to us either," Pugh replied. "That was the way it was, so we went ahead and paid it."

The person perhaps most taken aback by a water bill that arrived was Prairie Village, KS, resident Sara Passan.

"Wait a minute, this is KCMO. I'm in Prairie Village, KS," Passan said of the bill she received. "I couldn't believe it would be so bogus."

According to the bill, sent out by the KCMO water department, the owners of "building d f", presumably Passan, owe the city money water and sewer services. Passan called KCMO water customer service for an explanation.

"They were nice enough," Passan said, "but they didn't instill that much confidence. They couldn't tell me why it happened."

But as KCTV5 discovered, it's been at least a dozen years since any building occupied the property in question, not in Kansas, but the middle of Midtown Kansas City. During one of the city's largest ever land acquisitions; the property was turned into a parking lot, surrounded by fast food restaurants and a big box store.

"My biggest concern was they couldn't assure me this wouldn't happen again," Passan said. "They had no idea why it happened."

The water department has since assured KCTV5 that the bills to Passan will indeed stop and that Pugh will get a refund of the $940 bill she paid. A spokesperson thanked the television station for letting the agency know the property no longer includes a house.

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