Fredericksburg's utility billing office has been flooded with more than 100 calls from residents complaining about their latest water bills, which they said were unusually high.

The majority of the concerns have come from residents living in the Idlewild neighborhood, said Robyn Shugart, the city's director of finance.

She said there are a number of reasons why the Sept. 27 bill is higher than in the past. For starters, it is the first bill that included the 10 percent rate increase that went into effect July 1, and it covers 68 days instead of the normal 60 due to the July 4 holiday.

Fredericksburg raised its water and sewer fees 10 percent to cover operating costs, debt service and future capital needs for wastewater treatment. Median water and sewer users, defined as those using 6,700 gallons of water every two months, were expected to see their total two-month water and sewer bill jump from $81.52 to a proposed $89.66 in fiscal year 2020. That’s still lower than Stafford, Spotsylvania and Prince William counties.

Shugart said water usage also tends to go up in the summer, and this year it's been drier than normal.

"We do have a lot of people in Idlewild that do water their lawns and have irrigation systems, which is one reason their bill could be higher in the summertime," she said.

Shugart cited other reasons for increased water usage as well, including washing vehicles, filling backyard swimming pools and having additional people in the house such as college students on summer break and visits from friends and family.

Customers who think their water bill shows more consumption than normal should contact the utility billing office at 540/372-1182, she said. A staff member can analyze their account and see if it shows higher usage than is historically normal for them. If it is, a utility crew will be sent to do a five- minute leak check and to see if the meter is working properly.

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Cathy Jett: 540/374-5407

cjett@freelancestar.com

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