Spike in Atoka water bills caused by inaccurate meter readings

ATOKA, Okla. (KXII) -- Lots of people in Atoka were shocked when they opened their water bills last week, some of them increased by 300 to 500 percent.

The city addressed the issue at Monday night's council meeting.

Atoka City Manager Donnie Allen said the spike in bills was caused by inaccurate meter readings.

He said of the 1,300 water meters in the city, about 100 customers called to get theirs reread. And about 20 of those meters were wrong, and the bills corrected.

Some people said their bills were several hundred dollars higher than normal.

"Oh angry, I was angry," said Terri Smith, who normally pays about $50 for water each month.

But this time, that number changed.

"I got to the mailbox, open it up, start walking back to the house and I look at my bill. It's $240 and I immediately get mad," Smith said.

About $180 more than his usual bill.

One woman said she normally pays $55 on her bill, now hers is $154.

Another resident's was over $5,000 last month, and this time it is still more than the $50 to $60 she normally pays.

Allen said some of the meters are faulty, but not all of them.

"Some of them are meters and some of them are just read inaccurately," Allen said.

He said phones at town hall have been ringing off the hook this week.

"We apologize for any inconvenience this caused people," Allen said.

Atoka uses manual meters that have to be dug up and read. Allen said some are 50 years old.

Smith said his meter has been covered in dirt for about six months.

"It's right after Christmas. I've got kids, I've got grandkids, I struggle just like everybody in this community," Smith said.

Allen said they're working to fix the problem.

"We will come out and reread your meter. And if it's wrong, we're gonna take care of it," Allen said.

Smith said his meter is on the schedule for Tuesday.

"And we shouldn't have to put up with stuff like that. All we want is accuracy," Smith said.

"We're here to help our citizens, not to hurt our citizens," Allen said.

At Atoka City Council, they approved buying digital meters. They'll take out a loan from the Oklahoma Water Resources Board.

Allen said they are hiring a new meter reader, they'll post an ad in the paper.

No word on what will happen to the current meter reader.

If you think your water bill is incorrect, call Atoka City Hall at 580-889-3341.