Tuesday, June 18, 2019

JXN Water Customers Sue to Stop Water Cut-offs

A group of Jackson water customers sued to stop the city from cutting off water services for customers until the city resolves its lawsuit against Siemens.   The plaintiffs accuse the city of cutting off water for customers even though it knows the bills are inaccurate.  The action was filed today in Hinds County Chancery Court.

The plaintiffs accuse the city of disconnecting the water services for "scores of citizens" who are disputing their inaccurate and "exorbitant bills".   The city even suspended water services for some customers while they were at review hearings.

Jackson sued Siemens and several minority sub-contractors last week for $225 million.  The city claimed over half of the 60,000 water meters were improperly installed. The Siemens project has been nothing short of a financial disaster for Jackson as countless customers have been plagued by inaccurate and exorbitant bills - when they get bills at all.  Indeed, the plaintiffs used the city's own Siemens lawsuit against itself:

in June 2018, the City had direct knowledge that the water billing system did not produce accurate bills and the water system overall failed to function as intended. Yet, the City did not convey this information to its account holders, deciding instead to continue water disconnections premised on flawed data.
while quoting Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba: 

Mayor Lumumba himself has articulated that Plaintiffs, as account holders, have received "exorbitant bills" as a result of a "system that does not work". Mayor Lumumba, as final policymaker for the executive branch of the City, has conceded Plaintiffs are the victims of negligence, fraud or other improper acts perpetuated to produce inaccurate water bills.
The city cut off water services for customers who haven't paid their water bills even though the water bills are "grossly inaccurate".   Jackson's customers bore the burden of the failure of the Siemens project even though the fault lies with the contractors.

The complaint states the "grossly inaccurate" bills allegedly owed by each plaintiff:

Alex Allen, Jr.: Over $1,000
LaTrenda Funches: $19,524. The city twice disconnected her service. 
Joseph Johnson, Jr: $16,583.  City suspended his water service.  Mr. Johnson appealed. 
Kenneth Mabry: Over $1,800
Village Cleaners: Over $8,000
Barbara Evans: Over $34,000 

 The plaintiffs asked the Court to estop the city from cutting off water service until a neutral third party reviews the account and provides an accounting to the customer.  They argue an injunction will prevent irreparable harm.  Wrongfully terminating water service will spread disease, prevent customers from cleaning, and harm public health.  The complaint also asks the court to appoint a Special Master to "establish a neutral third-party review process" and order the accounting completed in 90 days.

Attorneys Anthony Simon, Pieter Teeuwissen, and Jeffrey Graves represent the plaintiffs.  The case was assigned to Chancellor Tiffany Grove.

Kingfish note: What a pickle for the city.  The water collections are a catastrophe  and have damn near bankrupted the city.  Who would imagine the customers would use the Siemens lawsuit against the city in an effort to stop water cut-offs. 




36 comments:

Anonymous said...

Village Cleaners takes in laundry to wash, dry, and fold and they sued over an $8,000.00 water/sewer/garbage bill? How silly! They got to owe that much. Do not know the other people except for one of the attorneys. He was once City Attorney -- maybe even when the Siemens contract was signed.

Anonymous said...

Normally, I'd side with the city and demand payment for the water used....BUT, when there's no way to prove the accuracy of any given meter reading, I'll take the side of the customer.

How much water do you have to use to rack up a $34,000 bill???

Anonymous said...

They have no chance unless they hire Frontier Strategies and pay up for media help

Anonymous said...

Is the last sentence of number 4 under the Introduction supposed to read "account holders should not" instead of "account holders should"?

Anonymous said...

What a joke of a City and people who live in it.

Anonymous said...

We need government to run more programs. They are so competent in everything they do.

Anonymous said...

I suggest they change out the meter with a new one and see what the monthly bill is. If it is close to the meter you just took out then what’s the beef. Problem is that with the old meters being manually read there is no guarantee that was correct. The Cleaners I would guess would run a $800 a month water bill based on use. What was it 2 years ago? Don’t forget, more water used more sewer is charged.
We received a $3,000 bill because our small office had been charged a minimum for 15 years. They adjusted due to the fact that they had not read it for years. Our bill went up about $20 a month after that.

Anonymous said...

Let's take the $34,000 bill. Normally sewer is more than water, so I'm going to assume $14,000 for water and $20,000 for sewer. Water in Jackson probably runs about $3.00 per 1000 gallons. So we can do the math and come up with about 4.6 million gallons. A residential meter running wide open can produce about 15 gallons per minute. So it would take about 5200 hours for a residential meter to produce a $14,000 bill.

Disclaimer, I work in the water utility industry.

Anonymous said...

The Plaintiffs have very fine, smart attorneys in Pieter and Anthony. Normally I would be for the City but they have put together a reasonable case for an accounting.

Anonymous said...

tuisen is a former city attorney under the corrupt melton administration/

. he is the one that along with danks got their asses handed to them in federal court by wingate when melton shut down babes gentlemen club. he doesn't exactly have a winning record. pieter was also a wise ass in wingates court room once before while defending a employment discrimination case. while plaintiffs counsel was conducting voir dire on the jury panel, she asked"has anyone here every been subjected to employment discrimination "? ......well...... piter raised his hand. wingate didnt think it was funny and jerked his ass in line

Anonymous said...

Pieter and Jeff represent the plaintiffs? Don’t they also represent the Board of Supervisors for hinds county?????

Pappy Odaniel said...

Its just amazing how people never learn...several other surrounding communities have just enetered into similar meter replacement schemes and touted them as not costing anything. That's the marketing...it will clear up billing so that you get higher revenues and you don't have to pay people to read meters. The reality is that you have now added an IT infrastructure to read the meters that must be maintained, a sensor system that must be maintained, a communications system that must be maintained and the maintenance of those systems is a lot more expensive per hour than Jim-bob driving around and reading some numbers...and of course, we're not firing Jim-bob, no, he has to be retrained to check on error readings and to shut off the water when you want to work on your house because they all have anti-tampering systems that require them to be centrally controlled...oh and when you go to replace them they are $250 apiece instead of $20. And the free part...well, me-maw has been paying $30 a month for the past 15 years because of a bad reading on the meter (or just not being read)and then gets a new meter...the new meter reads correctly and bounces against the historic data and low and behold me-maw has about 10k in arrears on her water...and as soon as she coughs that up VOILA! there is your "free" system.

Anonymous said...

746 pm - your math misses a little. 1) sewer runs more than twice the water, but morose 2) the bills include a monthly garbage collection fee of $20 to $25, no matter what the water useage.

Granted it depends on how long the bill went unpaid, and possibly a leak that went on for months wit out repairing. One running toilet can take a minimum water bill to a couple hundred dollars a month, and that's the most minor of 'leaks'.

May still be an ncorrect bill, but the city'a policy covers that if the customer is paying current every month whole the supposed error is disputed. But Councilman Kennuf on his radio show is telling his folks to 'don't pay, but appeal' - which isn't following the Council's own decisions.

Anonymous said...

Free medical care, free school, free food, free housing, free transportation, free money...why not free water too? There are a lot of people that are conditioned to "free" everything so when faced with actually having to pay for something, like water, it sends them scurrying to court in disbelief. This situation will not end well, particularly for those left in Jackson that actually pay taxes.

Anonymous said...

It was never about "saving money," but it was always about enriching friends of the prior mayor and some council members. That enrichment no doubt made its way back to city hall.

Fair is Fair.. said...

Sounds entirely reasonable to me that the court should put a halt on all negative actions by the city, at least while this is in court. And, even AFTER the lawsuit is settled, an arbitration panel should rule on these bills.

Pieter Teeuwissen sounds like a familiar name. I guess Dale Danks wasn't available since Mayor Mary has him all tied up in Madison matters.

Anonymous said...

What a mess. You can’t turn water into watermelon...

Anonymous said...

Isn't this just a natural consequence when any governmental entity admits fiscal wrongdoing. That's what the City of Jackson has done. So if their admission is true, there are bound to be victims. Do those individual victims have legal rights? Hell, there ought to be a taxpayer lawsuit too!

Anonymous said...

Everyone should quit paying water/sewer bills till this gets worked out. Go ahead and declare bankruptcy and let’s speed this derailment up. No sense in delaying the inevitable.

Kingfish said...

Read it again. Customer gets slapped with a huge, inaccurate bill. City says it will cut off water if not paid. They simply want Jackson to get it's stuff right so they can pay their actual water bills, not the screwed up ones.

Cynical Sam said...

In five or ten years it will be water under the bridge, but only because the state took over the city. Tator Tot Reeves knows how to fix things, including building new streets.

Anonymous said...

KF, that's not what it says. Customer has a hugh bill. We can assume it is inaccurate, but we don't know. Bit assuming, city policy is customer has to pay current bills while questioning previous 'hugh' bill.

I've done this myself - for me and for a friend. Follow the policy, pay the part that is correct, or at least what you think it should be. Continue paying monthly while questioning the incorrect bill. But, don't pay anything while you continue to use water (and therefore sewer) and continue to have your garbage picked up and ----- guess wnhat? Your water will be cut off. As it should be.

Anonymous said...

@6:26 I don't disagree. I had to make some assumptions. I just assumed $14,000 for water on a $34,000 bill. If it is $7000 instead, then the number of hours a meter must run to provide that volume of water would be cut in half. I also assumed the water rate as $3.00 without looking it up. I had to make some assumptions to do some math without looking at the specifics of their bill.

Anonymous said...

This has been a 4 year long saga with me. We had 3 gaps in billing, one as long as 9 months. I continued to pay $200/month even when I did not receive a bill. When I called the Water Dept, their standard answer is that you must have a leak. I got that checked...no leak. The balance on the bill got as high as $6,900. I called again when we got a disconnect notice. If you call and setup a hearing with the Water/Sewer board they will not disconnect you. I never received an answer about my hearing but on 5/11/19, I received a new bill where they knocked off $5,900 from my bill. No idea where they came up with that amount.

My recommendation from this fiasco is to keep paying your bill and KEEP GOOD RECORDS OF YOUR PAYMENTS! I used my BillPay feature with my bank because it keeps track of when I sent the payment, when they received it and when it clears the bank. On average, it takes them 2-3 weeks to deposit your check after they receive it which is really ridiculous since they are using a bank lockbox. I have a feeling that there has been a massive problem with payments being applied correctly to customers' accounts. They need to shut down all of the payment receiving locations across the city. They do not have adequate controls over that process.

Anonymous said...

As a Former resident of Jackson and this water shit show... We began having spuratic water bills around 2016.. months would go by, we would get a big one, like $350 or so..this happened a couple of times.. Then we move, call the city, they send us the final bill. $4,600... Are you effing kidding me, "mo ma'am." Says you have not paid for water since 2009 or so. So I..go to my bank and have them pulled a record of all payments made. Call to get an appointment, cannot do that on the phone, have to show up. I go to the water dept and am told they are not in, and no one knows when they will be in... This happens over about 3 months...several hours out of work to go to the bank to go back to the water dept and you know what... no one cares... I am so GD over this nonsense... the people working there are just as "grossly incompetent" as the effing Siemens contractors

Anonymous said...

Peter was legal counsel for the city at the time the Siemens deal was done and his partner Simon was paid as bond counsel to finance the project. Now they are getting paid to sue the city on claims relating to the terms of a contract they were paid by the the city to negotiate. No conflicts of interest at all.

Anonymous said...

Think about the poor bond holders who bought Jackson bonds.

Anonymous said...

Think about the poor bond holders who bought Jackson bonds.

They knew the risks and if they didn't then they've got all the downside coming to them for not doing their own due diligence.

Anonymous said...

POST at 2:26 says it all! If you skipped over that post, go back and read it. If you read it already, read it again.

Anonymous said...

Which former Mayor had connections to Detroit? I don't really think BabyChok fully understands what is going to come out of that can of worms he's opening. My bet is that he either files this lawsuit and takes some sort of action or DPW Miller walks.

Brylcreem Commando said...

Jackson is LOST.

Anonymous said...

2:27 makes a great point. you can bet you last doller the ms bar is asleep at the switch yet again. the only thing they are worried about is where they are going to go for lunch. defense counsel for the city ought to file a motion to recuse both these clowns off the case.

Anonymous said...

2:26 imagine owning commercial buildings. Multiply your number by 100. Serious question for any lawyers here: if inaccurate water billing and ruined the sale of a property (large transaction worth millions) do I have a claim against water Dept for my economic loss?

Anonymous said...

Why do we have water meters that are measured by cubic foot instead of per gallon?

Anonymous said...

@7:41 good question. Most water utilities use gallons for measurement. A few do use cubic feet. Canton Municipal is an example of one that uses cubic feet. I think some, such as CMU, maybe use cubic feet because they sell gas in that measurement, so they are familiar with it. CMU is a gas provider also. So maybe it is familiarity. But gallons just makes so much sense.

Anonymous said...

When it comes to water, "a pint is a pound all the world around," "a US gallon is 231 cubic inches," and "a cf is 7.48 gals across the globe" OK, so that last one isn't as well-known, but it is true. Anyway, it really doesn't matter in which unit it is measured as it is readily and accurately converted between units of measure. Well, except in Jackson, where it apparently cannot be accurately metered in ANY unit of measure.

I don't know why water companies measure in cf, but in aircraft, fuel is measured in pounds to avoid confusion between imperial and US gallons.

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