As the project to replace water meters in Panama City reaches its final phase, some residents are shocked with the results. It seems the new meters are changing the cost to have city water.
"This time of year, when you have higher electric bills and everything else...it's staggering," said Panama City resident Sandra Lee Harder.
Harder says ever since crews put her new water meter in about 2 months ago, she's seen a change
"My water bill almost doubled," Harder said. "It went from almost $110 to $200."
But Harder isn't the only one. Some residents have seen their bills double or triple over the past few months. In fact, one resident News 13 spoke to say they saw their bill go from $6 a month to $193 dollars a month.
"In general, customers are not happy," said Shirley Robinson, Panama City's meter supervisor.
Shirley Robinson says it's all a work in progress. A study was done in 2008 that showed many meters in Panama City were not registering water use. Robinson estimates the number falls between 2,000 and 2,500 meters.
"Age was a factor, so was personnel, so was customers," Robinson said. "We bought meters that outlived their usefulness."
The city has been on a nearly 7 million dollar mission to replace the meters with new digital meters. For some customers, a more accurate meter meant a suddenly higher bill.
"You're now paying for what you've actually always been using," Robinson said.
Before the new meters, the city was losing money. Officials estimate the city lost $700,000 in 2008 alone.
"Could we force a customer to pay 2 or 3 years of back billing...yes," Robinson said. "Would that be fair? That's questionable."
So the city is eating the cost for most residential meters, and working on incorporating a brand new computer system that ushers in a new era of accuracy. Options include the ability to pull up customers' usage, their time of usage, and the amount of usage.
"We're asking for more patience as we get the system up and running," Robinson said.
Some, like Harder, are taking their issues straight to city hall.
"I'm going to go this month when I pay my water bill again, and I'm going to ask them again if they can check into it," Harder said.
Meter installation is 80% percent complete. The city expects the bills to level out over the next few months.