City Responds to Petition Calling for F.C. Water Audit

F.C. City Manager Wyatt Shields. (FCNP photo)

City of Falls Church City Manager Wyatt Shields issued a letter today in response to a petition from F.C. water customers calling for an independent audit of water accounts. The issue arises from what some are calling inconsistencies and overcharges on customers’ most recent water bills from the City. As of Thursday afternoon, the petition has 108 signatures.

In the letter, Shields says the City “is happy” to have an outside analyst assess customers’ December water bills. He also encourages customers to contact F.C. Water’s customer service office at 703-248-5108.

Shields says the City will “procure the services of an outside firm and will follow water industry best practices in scoping and conducting the analysis.” He adds “updates will be provided on the City’s website and through the petition’s forum.”

The City Manager’s letter is below:

Dear Falls Church Water Customers: 

I have received your petition calling for an audit of Falls Church Water billings. The City is taking two approaches to help answer the questions that have been raised about the water bills issued in December. The first is to encourage our customers to contact our customer service office at 703-248-5108 to speak with a representative and resolve billing questions on an individual basis. That is the most direct route to having your questions answered. 

The second, as called for in your petition, is for an outside analyst to assess the December water bills. We are happy to do this. The bottom line is that our customers have asked questions about their recent water bills and we want to ensure that they are answered thoroughly on an individual basis, and on a system-wide basis. 

The City will procure the services of an outside firm and will follow water industry best practices in scoping and conducting the analysis. Updates will be provided on the City’s website and through this petition forum, assuming this format allows that. 

In the meantime, I urge any customer who has a question about their bill to contact Customer service at 703-248-5108 between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. We will work with you to resolve any questions you have about your bill. Here are a few additional facts about the City’s water billing process: 

· The City water bill is based on metered consumption (except on rare occasions when an estimated bill is used). 

· The City uses Automatic Meter Reading technology, whereby the meter at your property sends a unique radio signal—specific to your home—to a mobile data gathering device. 

· In the event of an unusual consumption reading, we will work with the customer to determine the cause of that reading and resolve it based on the best determination of the facts. 

· Median quarterly water consumption for our residential customers is approximately 12,000 gallons. 

· If your September through December consumption this year is markedly different from the prior year, please consider factors that may have caused the variance. If there is a significant difference that you cannot explain, we can assist in diagnosing the problem on a case by case basis. 

· In our transition plan with Fairfax Water, our former employees (now employees of Fairfax Water) are available to the City to administer the mailing and collection of final water bills in February. In addition, the City has hired temporary employees to assist with customer service for this final billing period. 

· The water bill includes sewer charges, and rates were increased for both Fairfax County and City residents, effective July 1, 2013 (the sewer base rate was increased for County properties, and the sewer commodity rate was increased for City properties). If you notice a difference in your water bill, but not your water consumption, the difference is due to the change in sewer rates. Water rates have not changed in the past two years. 

Customers with current water related issues, such as to report a water main break or other customer concerns, should call Fairfax Water at 703-698-5800. 

The City is preparing final water bills for all customers that will be mailed out in February. We take seriously the questions that have been raised in this forum and the petitions we have received, and will work with our customers to resolve any questions about consumption or billing. 


Wyatt Shields

City Manager