Jackson councilman wants city to provide financial help to residents with water bill issues

Councilman Kenneth Stokes proposes the city pay residents $100 in cash and adjust their bill by $200.

Jackson councilman wants city to provide financial help to residents with water bill issues
Councilman Kenneth Stokes (Source: WLBT)

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - It’s no secret that water bill issues have been a big problem for Jackson residents for years.

Ward 5 City Councilman Kenneth Stokes said dozens of residents are still paying money to the city for incorrect water bills.

“They are forcing these citizens to have to pay money that they don’t owe, and that’s not right,” said Stokes. “You got to start at the mayor’s office, he’s at the top of the totem pole. Then you have to look at what’s going on with public works. I know the public works director is gone, but it makes no sense that nobody is being held responsible.”

This all stems from a lawsuit the city filed against Siemens Industry, Inc. and its subcontractors in 2019.

The company was hired to revamp the city’s water billing system in 2013.

However, the city said that didn’t happen and alleges the company also inflated costs by reselling meters.

The city sued Siemens for $450 million in damages.

In 2020, the city and the company reached a settlement for more than $89 million.

Stokes now wants some of that money to go towards customers’ remaining water bill balances.

“Siemens paid the city, plus these customers are paying them too, that’s like you’re being hoodwinked,” Stokes expressed. “You’re being hoodwinked by the city to pay a bill you don’t owe, and you already made Siemens pay the bill, that’s wrong.”

The councilman is proposing the city pay residents $100 in cash and adjust their bill by $200.

“If other council members feel more money is needed, I’ll support it, but we at least need to move forward at least giving the citizens of this city $300,” said Stokes. “Siemens admitted that something was done wrong. If Siemens paid the city and admitted that they did something wrong, then the city should have forgiven the bills that these citizens don’t owe. Now if the city is saying we can’t forgive bills, you can surely make bill adjustments.”

This past summer the city held two meetings virtually to discuss the best ways to spend the money it received from the settlement.

The mayor stated that he wants the funds to go towards fixing customer’s water bill issues and the water billing system.

Another solution to intended to help is Senate Bill 2856.

It was passed in 2020 and allows public works and other city departments to be able to set up alternative payment systems with residents.

Stokes said he plans to discuss and have a vote on his proposal during Tuesday’s city council meeting.

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