Mar 6, 2023 - News

Inside Richmond's chaotic gas and water billing

Illustration of a faucet with a drop of water with a sad face.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

A new city report details the nitty gritty of Richmond's sometimes chaotic gas and water billing.

What's happening: Richmond relies too often on estimated bills, doesn't have a plan to replace aging equipment that results in missed readings, and has allowed its backlog of unpaid bills to grow to more than $60 million.

Why it matters: It seems like basically everyone in the city has had an unpleasant run-in with the Department of Public Utilities or knows someone who has.

By the numbers: Instead of reading a meter, the city estimated more than 130,000 bills during the last fiscal year, which can sometimes lead to vastly higher or lower charges than expected.

  • Some meters — 3,807 — were billed based on estimates for the entire year.

Of note for anyone who has looked for a copy of their bill online only to find out that function doesn't exist: Contractually, the city's software provider is supposed to make past and current bills available.

  • They just don't, and no one ever called them on it, per the auditor.

What's next: DPU concurred with all of management's findings and said they're working on the issues, per the report.

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