GARDEN RIDGE, Texas — The mayor of Garden Ridge is offering residents a refund after a water rate increase backfired.
Mayor Larry Thompson admitted there was a water rate increase error, leading to higher-than-expected bills.
Many residents spoke at a city council meeting in September and expressed frustration with their bill, which led to a rollback to the 2015 water rates.
KENS 5 broke the story last month and spoke to Roger Apolinar, who received a water bill for $1,636.52. He said that after his story aired on KENS 5, he was reissued a bill for $963.
At the time of the interview, he said he preferred having his money back over a credit.
Initially, Mayor Larry Thompson said the City of Garden Ridge Water Company would only offer residents a credit as a refund. During an interview with KENS 5, Thompson was asked multiple times why he would not offer residents refunds in the form of money.
“Again, you asked me and I told you we issued credits,” Thompson said.
He stood his ground on only issuing credits during an on-camera interview, but later he changed his mind. In an email, he confirmed his statement to offer refunds.
The email read, in part: "Yes, we will issue a refund check to anyone that asks."
Thompson said city employees reached out to residents to return check payments and among them was Apolinar. He said at the time of the billing cycle, residents were advised not to pay the original balance.
According to Thompson, the biggest credit they gave a resident was for $2,500, but a name couldn't be disclosed due to privacy issues.
The water company is offering free meter checks after several people claimed the water usage stated on their bill didn’t add up.
"We have checked over 100 meters and every single one of them has been in tolerance," Thompson said.
Experts are now crunching numbers to recommend a new water rate increase. Thompson says once they reach a rate, a recommendation will be made to city council for a final decision. And, he said, the city will make sure residents have a window of time to adjust.
"It will be at least a month lag, so that everybody knows what their rates are," Thompson said.
He says the water rate increase will help cover the costs of company employees, equipment and supplies.