Thousands of Cary residents got 2 water bills for August. Do they have to pay both?

A water main break has cut service along N.C. 86 in the Hillsborough area of central Orange County.
A water main break has cut service along N.C. 86 in the Hillsborough area of central Orange County.

Some Cary residents recently got two water bills for August.

City officials say the company that handles its utility billing made a mistake and double billed about 12,000 customers, including about 4,000 electronically. Cary has more than 60,000 water customers.

Town chief financial officer Karen Mills sent a letter telling customers who received two bills they only need to pay the charges once.

“Recently, you may have received a duplicate water bill for August,” she wrote. “Please disregard one of those bills.”

Account balances were not affected by the mistake, she said.

“Your account does not reflect two charges,” she wrote.

Customers who have their bills drafted electronically will not be charged twice, she said.

Water bill balances can be checked on the town’s website at www.townofcary.org using the “Water Bill” link.

The vendor will cover the cost of mailing the extra bills and the follow-up letters, Mills said.

Water bill woes

Water customers in other nearby cities and towns also got jolts in water bills recently.

Some Durham water customers were charged hundreds of dollars after their accounts, which had been based on estimated usage, were amended to reflect actual usage. Some customers had their usage estimated for over a year, including some for nearly two years.

Durham Water Department officials say a policy change should reduce the number of bills based on estimated use in the future. Water meters will be checked and read manually if an account goes more than two consecutive cycles with estimated usage billed, they say.

Durham is offering payment plans to customers who received bills based on long-term estimated usage.

Water Department officials told the City Council that none of these customers would have their service cut off while their accounts were in dispute.

In Harnett County, some customers of Harnett Regional Water also received high water bills they were not expecting, ABC11, The News & Observer’s media partner, reported.

One customer had a bill nearly triple from $40-50 to $159, ABC11 reported.

A customer in the southern Wake County town of Holly Springs, which also is served by Harnett Regional Water, received a bill for about $49,000 after being used to paying $40-70 per month, ABC11 reported.

The water company blamed the billing error on a personnel matter that has been addressed, ABC11 reported.

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Joe Johnson is a reporter covering breaking stories for The News & Observer. He most recently covered towns in western Wake County and Chatham County. Before that, he covered high school sports for The Herald-Sun.