Hundreds of Mount Vernon residents opened their latest water bills to find a hefty extra charge.
Not because they hadn’t paid what they owed. And not because the city was suddenly charged more for its water.
On Facebook, City Councilwoman Delia Farquharson posted her bill showing an “additional billing” of $319.75. “This water bill requires further explanation. I do not have a pool,” she quipped alongside the bill.
The explanations came Wednesday from water Commissioner Carlton Spruill and Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard. The extra charge for residents of Water District 3 was a result of the crash of a city computer server in April that eliminated data including some of the water department’s billing records. They suggested the “additional billing” figure will not have to be paid.
Mount Vernon Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard and water Commissioner Carlton Spruill took to Facebook Oct. 7, 2020, to explain extra charges that appeared on many water bills (Photo: City of Mount Vernon)
In a letter to customers, Spruill told residents that the “additional billing” reflected previous payments. Those who believe their bills were incorrect were urged to call the water department at 914-668-7820 or email them at [email protected]
Contact by email may be best as when a reporter called the department Thursday morning, both options went to voicemail but the mailbox was full.
“Once we have been notified of your inquiry, please disregard any “Additional Billing” and remit payment for “Current Charges” while we investigate and adjust any discrepancies,” Spruill wrote.
Spruill and Patterson-Howard posted a 3-minute video on Facebook detailing the problem. The mayor urged residents who got the extra charge to find their proof of previous payments to help the water department clear up the problem.
“We are not trying to double-bill our citizens for water,” she said.
The mayor also addressed the billing problem among several city issues on a Facebook live session. She said the billing has been transferred to a new software program that doesn’t have to rely on antiquated computer servers. And she expressed confidence that Mount Vernon’s new commissioner of management services, Helen Adesuwa Uzamere, will successfully revamp the city’s information technology systems.
The water department has faced several controversies in recent years. Former Mayor Ernie Davis’ water commissioner, Anthony Bove, went to prison five years ago after demanding a bribe to promote an employee. And last year, Corporation Counsel Lawrence Porcari was convicted of criminal charges after steering $360,000 in water funds to then-Mayor Richard Thomas’ criminal defense lawyers.
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