CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Carlos Paz, who lives in the Danby neighborhood, recently received water and sewage bills from Carolina Water Services in the amount of $100, $104, $107 and $100.
"It's very frustrating,” said the husband and father of two. “I don't think we should be paying that much for water.”
Jim Long and his wife, of Woodside Falls, paid $101 and $110 for water recently.
"A lot of retired people out here,” Long said. “A lot of people (are) on (a) fixed income and $100 a month is quite expensive."
Other customers in the unincorporated area of Mecklenburg County between Ballantyne and Pineville have paid $100 bills as well.
They've been venting their frustration on social media about Carolina Water Service, a private utility with about 35,000 customers in North Carolina.
Action 9 asked the utility's spokeswoman Deborah Clark about the bills.
"Isn't $100 and more a lot for these families?" Action 9 investigator Jason Stoogenke asked.
"Again, those rates are set by the North Carolina Utilities Commission," Clark said.
"But you guys ask for it. You asked for the increase. You could lower them, right?" Stoogenke said.
"The reason we ask for any increase is to cover the cost that is associated with providing safe and reliable water to our customers," Clark explained.
"Could you do that for cheaper?" Stoogenke asked.
"Well, our rates are based on the need and that need is approved by the North Carolina Utilities Commission," Clark said.
The company raised rates in 2017 and asked for another increase.
North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein opposed it but a few days ago, the North Carolina Utilities Commission approved the hike, which was lower.
The average customer went from paying $108 to $111 per month.
"Even though it's unfortunate folks' rates may have gone up, it would have been a heck of a lot worse if we weren't in there fighting for them," Stein told action 9.
The average Charlotte Water customer uses more water but pays $64.61.
"They have a fund balance that they can tap into,” Clark said. “They have bonds that they can issue. We don't have those."
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