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Councilwoman Wheeler Requests Huntington Sanitary Board Presentation at Next Council Meeting

Updated 1 week ago by Tony E. Rutherford, News Editor
Councilwoman Wheeler Requests Huntington Sanitary Board Presentation at Next Council Meeting
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Billing and water cutoff complaints regarding the Huntington Sanitary Board have prompted Councilwoman Jennifer Wheeler to request that the utility make a special presentation regarding the issues at the next Huntington City Council meeting.

Her request comes after the board's announcement that 4,000 people will have their water shut off, numerous Facebook complaints, and a hearing Thursday, July 13 in Charleston at the Public Service Commission.

Wheeler responded directly to a complaint that of a customer receiving cut off notice(s) despite his bill as current.

Ms. Wheeler stated and granted HNN's request to quote:

"I join you (complainant)  in seeking an explanation for the billing . It would appear that the Sanitary Board is having. In response to your Facebook post, I have sent a request to the City for a formal presentation to be held prior to, during, or immediately following the next Council meeting. I am asking that the presentation include an explanation of the relationship between the City and Sanitary Board, the internal structure of the organization, and billing- what each fee is for, why some are receiving multiple bills, and the plan to consolidate and solve the billing problems."

John McAulay had  told Ms. Wheeler on Facebook:

"I've received an original bill and past due bill on the same day. I'm not saying there aren't people who don't pay their bills but many do and we shouldn't have to worry that if we miss a call or are out of town and miss one of their false notices of non-payment that we will be without water."

Another posting stated:

"There have been so many wrong doings with the Huntington Sewer bills to numerous Huntington residents since they started billing Sewer and water bills separate.Also they have shut off the water to countless of homes where young children,elderly,disabled,handicapped etc.live even when their water bills are paid and right in the middle of 90 and 100 degree temperatures..."

One individual complained to a TV station, but they did not do a story apparently since she refused to appear on camera.

On Thursday, July 13, Whitney Eskew challenged her water cut off before the board in Charleston, WV. The Sanitary Board, by counsel, asked for a dismissal.

During the hearing it is unclear to the extent that  a customer advocate advised the hearing judge about ongoing HSB billing and water cut off issues.

Although Ms. Eskew, admittedly a low income individual, had since paid her bill, disconnect, reconnect and deposit , she challenged the procedures as insufficient.

She granted HNN permission to READ but not display (at this time) documents which contain personal data with the arguments.

From her self admitted "slow" bill payment history, it is evident that in years past the HSB sent numerous notices of disconnect but did not act on them.

Ms. Eskew received a notice that she testified "looked like junk mail" and discarded it during a family crisis. She volunteered before the PSC to design them a logo for their envelopes.

One issue involved which phone the HSB allegedly called. She did not receive a return call from Wes Leek, executive director. He was present at the hearing. Eskew did not have an attorney.

However, the notes in her account --- compiled as a notorized exhibit by  Tamra Leek, billing manager --- includes a documentation about "Rhonda" from the PSC contacting HSB on March 16, 2017:

... Said Whitney complained about us not returning calls. Told her [Rhonda ?] we have been trying but sent out about 2,000 calls in the last two days and working 2 turn off lists. We are working on returning those calls through out day ..."

Exhibit 1, Whitney Eskew v. City of Huntington Sanitary Board, Case 17-0465 S-C

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