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State of Rhode Island General Assembly
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Kent County legislators demand answers regarding skyrocketing water bills in Coventry
In addition, complaints are being received from residents from Scituate, Warwick, West Greenwich & West Warwick
STATE HOUSE – Kent County legislators Sen. Leonidas P. Raptakis, Rep. Patricia A. Serpa, Sen. Gordon E. Rogers, and Rep. George A. Nardone are demanding answers from the Kent County Water Authority (KCWA) after numerous ratepayers have come forward with quarterly water bills that have increased dramatically without any explanation.
“Instead of scrambling to make excuses that make no sense, it's time for the Kent County Water Authority to recognize that something has gone seriously wrong with their billing and take corrective action to address the problem. This problem is only going to explode when they send the remaining two-thirds of their bills out and people see they are being wildly overcharged. I'm not going away, my legislative colleagues aren't going away and consumers being victimized by this agency are not going away. The KWCA needs to fix this mess and they need to do it now.” said Senator Raptakis (D-Dist. 33, Coventry, East Greenwich, West Greenwich).
“A common denominator with these rising bills appears to be the installation of new water meters which were mandated by the water authority with the threat of water shutoffs. This particular water meter has been tied to skyrocketing water bills in other places in the country such as North Brunswick, New Jersey and Atlanta, Georgia. Simply put, our ratepayers deserve much better, and during this time of complete economic and health uncertainty, this process being carried out by the water authority is plainly wrong,” said Representative Serpa, Chair of the House Oversight Committee (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick).
Among the many complaints coming in to the legislators from ratepayers, one condo association with nine units reported that their bill exploded from $889 the previous quarter to $4,200.
“This unusual rate increase is affecting those on fixed incomes and those who have economically suffered from the COVID-19 pandemic. These ratepayers cannot afford the ludicrous price hikes for the basic necessity of water service, and we expect Kent County Water to rectify this situation promptly and without delay,” said Senator Rogers (R-Dist. 21, Foster, Coventry, Scituate, West Greenwich).
“Far too many ratepayers were blindsided by this dramatic increase for these cases to be anomalies. Something is clearly wrong, and it must be remedied immediately. At a time when so many are stretching a dollar as far as possible, these billing discrepancies are unconscionable,” said Representative Nardone (R-Dist. 28, Coventry).
“There certainly appears to be a calculation issue related the last quarterly billing. KCWA stated “there has been a tremendous amount of misinformation being shared on social media” in their most recent press release. I am not sure how posting bills received directly from the Water Authority showing double, and sometimes even triple, the amount of consumption and comparing that consumption to the last four quarters is considered misinformation. I believe an investigation into each bill is not only necessary, it should be required by this public utility, and appreciate the DPUC’s quick response related to this matter,” said James LeBlanc, Coventry Town Councilman-elect.
The legislators have written to the chairperson of the Kent County Water Authority, Robert B. Boyer, and Executive Director/Chief Engineer David L. Simmons demanding an investigation into the astronomical billing increases. The legislators have also asked that all water shutoffs be prohibited for any disputed water bills from the August-September-October 2020 quarter.
They, and legislative staff, also participated in a conference call on Tuesday with the Division of Public Utilities (DPUC) highlighting the issues that have arisen from the abnormally high water bills and potential water shutoffs. Legislative staff have been closely working with affected ratepayers since the problem materialized last month.
The DPUC replied stating that their office can intervene after cases are investigated by KCWA, which must investigate each complaint promptly. Initial complaints should be reported to KCWA at
“Our message to the Coventry ratepayers affected by these water bills is that we and our offices are here to assist you. We know that times are tough for everyone right now and if you believe there is a problem with your water bill, please contact us to help you. And finally, if this problem is not solved in a timely and acceptable manner, legislative action will be pursued to correct this injustice,” concluded Senator Raptakis, Representative Serpa, Senator Rogers, and Representative Nardone.
For more information, contact:
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903
Lt. Governor's Office
Secretary of State
Link to Public Records Request