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CALL 6: Ex-employee claims Bartholomew Co. water company overcharged customers; company denies claim

Posted: 9:43 PM, Oct 02, 2018
Updated: 2018-10-02 23:36:56-04

BARTHOLOMEW COUNTY, Ind. -- The Eastern Bartholomew Water Corporation is pushing back on claims from a former meter reader who says customers were either overcharged or undercharged on their water bills. 

Daniel Beeker believes he was fired for pointing out problems with the water meter readings.

The company says the allegations “have been reviewed and determined to be without merit.”

“The readings from the month before were not adding up to what I was reading," said Beeker. "They were either undercharged or under the amount of usage."

Beeker was a meter reader for the Eastern Bartholomew Water Corporation for several months.

"Whenever I say, it’s over the amount from the prior month I'm talking like thousands of gallons," said Beeker.

Out of more than 5,000 customers, 3,000 have their meters read electronically to avoid human error, and 2,000 have to be read the old fashioned way---by a worker lifting the cover and reading the numbers.

Shirley Nugent is the wife of the pastor at Cornerstone Fellowship church in Elizabethtown. She believes meter readings were not done for several months until Daniel found their meter covered underneath gravel by the church's Ten Commandments plaque. 

“Sometimes it would double--but it doesn't make sense. We are only open 2 to 3 times a week. How is this bill higher than my house bill? It wasn't making any sense," said Nugent.

The President of the Elizabethtown Town Council, Robert Tertocha, also expressed concerns about his water bill.

"I do think that they need to review--do an investigation and do what's best for their customers. That's what I'd expect anyone to do," said Tertocha.

The Board President of the water company initially agreed to sit down with Call 6 Investigates, but that meeting was canceled, and we received an email that included an unsigned five-paragraph statement from the utility's lawyer. 

That statement pointed out that it was not Beeker's job to calculate water bills since the office staff does that. It also said he "would have no personal knowledge of the billing practices of the water corporation.”

The utility also stressed that of its 5,000 customers, it has only received 5 inquiries from customers concerning their water bills and that "all have been checked and, in fact, found to be accurate."

Eastern Bartholomew Water Corporation says anyone who is concerned with the accuracy of their bill or believes their meter is not properly calibrated should call 812-526-9777.

The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission has oversight over the water company and says there no pending complaints against Eastern Bartholomew Water Corporation before the agency’s Consumer Affairs Division.

If you have to file a complaint against a state-regulated utility, you must attempt to resolve the issue before the IURC will review it. 

You can file a complaint over the phone at 1-800-851-4268. Before you call, you should make sure to have all your documentation to assist in the complaint process.

You can read the full statement from the Eastern Batholomew Water Corporation below.

"The allegations made by a former employee involving claims of overcharging customers of Eastern Bartholomew Water Corporation have been reviewed and determined to be without merit. Eastern Bartholomew Water has over five thousand (5,000) customers, of which three thousand (3,000) meters are read by radio read. This technology eliminates the potential for any human error by a meter reader. Eastern Bartholomew Water continues to equip meters throughout its system with such advanced technology.

Additionally, the normal duties and responsibilities of a meter reader do not include calculating the bills issued to each of our customers. This function is accomplished through work of administrative personnel in the office. In short, a meter reader, as was the former employee making these allegations, would have no personal knowledge of any billing practices of the water corporation. In fact, the allegations from this former employee are suspect since this former employee was only with the water corporation for approximately a four (4) month period.

Eastern Bartholomew Water has encouraged any and all members to contact the office, telephone 812-526-9777, should any member believe their meter has been improperly read or is not properly calibrated. Eastern Bartholomew Water has policies in place to allow customers to request that meters be reviewed by authorized personnel and may be checked for accuracy of the readings.

Eastern Bartholomew Water Corporation categorically denies that any management employee made any statements to the former employee about his future.

The former employee has campaigned extensively on social media concerning his allegations. Eastern Bartholomew Water has received only five (5) inquiries from customers concerning their water bill. All have been checked and, in fact, found to be accurate."

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