BY JENNIFER CABRERA
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A public records request sent to Alachua Chronicle by Angela Casteel has revealed that 5,166 Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU) customers had not received bills for November, as of December 7. GRU has not responded to a request from Alachua Chronicle for an explanation, but they sent out a message to customers this afternoon.
In that message, GRU explained that sometimes they need to estimate usage when they can’t get an in-person reading of a meter. The message continues: “We have safeguards built into the system to prevent customers from being overbilled if their estimated usage is higher than their actual usage. When the system detects this, it automatically ‘locks’ the account and won’t send a bill until a billing representative can make sure the usage is correct.”
Because of staffing shortages, fewer meters are being read in person, more bills are being estimated, and more accounts are being “locked,” causing some customers to receive no bill at all for that billing cycle.
GRU has pledged that customers “will not be charged a late fee or receive any other penalties if GRU did not bill them” and that once they receive a bill, they will have 21 days to pay. Customers who need further assistance should call 352-334-3434.
GRU recommends paying an amount similar to your typical monthly bill to avoid a double bill for December.
GRU lists the following steps they are taking to avoid issues like this in the future:
- We are finishing a long-overdue update of our Customer Information System, which will enable us to operate more efficiently and reliably. We expect the new system to be operational in the spring.
- We are replacing or retrofitting all meters with digital meters that can be read remotely, which will eliminate the need for estimated reads.
- We continue to hire meter readers to cut down on estimates.