ONLY ON 3: CFPUA customers getting big bills for old, missed charges

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Submitted: Tue, 07/10/2012 - 3:59am
Updated: Tue, 07/10/2012 - 7:31pm

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The Cape Fear Public Utility Authority is no stranger to billing issues. Now the authority has found unbilled utilities, which may mean some unexpected charges for customers.

In our down economy, there’s no question that every dollar counts. What would you do if you received a bill from the CFPUA saying you owed close to $800 in unbilled expenses?”

That’s the reality for at least one Wilmington resident. Suyapa Urbina says she has never missed a payment to the cape fear public utility authority. Last week though, Urbina got a letter from the authority saying she owed an additional $775.75 on her next bill for sewage expenses the CFPUA missed from August 13, 2009 to December 12, 2011.

“If they would have charged me at the time, it wouldn’t have been a problem for me to pay,” Urbina said. “But now I have to pay in full almost $800. That’s not right.”

Urbina’s landlord, Larry Hunt, says she is the most reliable tenant he has ever had. He thinks the unbilled utilities are the authority’s problem, and he says the CFPUA should be held accountable for its mistake.

“The utility company should have to bite the bullet every now and then for some errors they make,” Hunt said. “It’s just not right for the customer to be nailed with this stuff when they didn’t do a thing wrong.”

CFPUA says state statute allows it to back bill customers up to three years. During a recent data scrub it found more than $380,000 in unbilled expenses for 446 commercial and residential customers so far.

The CFPUA did reduce Urbina’s charge to $640 and offered to put her on a payment plan, but it would not do away with the whole charge.

CFPUA spokeswoman Carey Ricks declined to go on camera for this story. She could not explain how the authority missed so much billing for so long.


  • GFcancer says:

    You’ve left your calling card in too many posts now. The barley pops have diminished your ability to see that. You never worked with me because that would require you to have done actual work.

  • Insider says:

    Boy – it just gets better (or worse, really) doesn’t it?

    Another outside consultant – to correct the ongoing billing issues that Authority management has had four years now to correct – and cannot – wow.

    And the CEO and CFO actually brought this item to the Board today and was willing to pay the consultant 90%???? 90%??? You kidding me, right? Guess not.

    Here’s an idea – forgive the debts – make a public statement – generate goodwill – you were willing to only collect 10 cent on the dollar anyway – do something for the ratepayers for a change.

    If the CEO / CFO / PIO had ever worked in the private sector they might understand “goodwill” from an accounting viewpoint. But they haven’t, and they don’t. 90% to a consultant???? You incompentents really took an item like this to the Board? Wow. Wow. At least the Board, for all their faults, had enough sense to reject this one.

    And Jason Thompson??? He thinks he is qualified to talk about billing?
    Jason “I challenge the public to a fight in the parking lot” Thompson?
    Maybe one day someone will take him up on his offer.

    Folks – wake up !! This CFPUA management was willing to give 90% of YOUR money that you paid to this company to a consultant from Houston!!

    The Board meeting is the 2nd Wednesday of every month beginning at 9am in the NHC Commissioner’s meeting room at the NHC government center. Show up, sign up to speak, voice your concerns at this idiocy from this management. Look at the management there, look at your Board members, speak up! Vote!

    90% to a consultant ?? Wow – they almost had you – laughing all the way to THEIR bank in Houston.

    1968, Chicago, Democratic National Convention, during Vietnam:
    “Hey, hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids have you killed today?”

    2012, Wilmington, CFPUA, four years into the billing fiasco:
    “Hey, hey, hey, big MJ, how many ratepayers have you screwed today?”

    It is time for you and the CFO and the PIO and a bunch of other highly paid incompentent managers to go. Just go away.

    Sorry, NHC and COW, it is going to get much worse before it gets better.

    Someone should ask what the CFPUA paid the CH2MHILL consultant (JDS and gang) for the Maximo fiasco and get an accounting of how badly that money has been spent……. You think the billing is bad……

  • Guest61246 says:

    I think this so called “data scrub” might have some flaws. Can the Authority actually show specific customers on paper that they owe money? Are they just billing hoping customers do not question the bill? It would take more than their “word” for me to fork over questionable cash. If the customers do indeed owe back money, they certainly should have it spread out over several months and not expected to pay all at one time.

  • Cant afford water says:

    This whole water authority has been a fiasco. I have watched our bill increase steadily since it began. I kept thinking it would get better. Don’t understand it? Go to ” What We Earn” on the Star News site and click CFPUA; it will pull up all of it’s employees and their base salaries. The CEO of this small organization is making more than $162,000 (more than our county manager!) Check out all his directors and managers. Their salaries are ridiculous!!!!! 5 are making over 100K, 6 in the 90K range, 4 in the 80K range, and so forth; An executive secretary is making 60K. How can the county turn over this much authority to one small group is beyond me. The authority and the board that oversees it needs to be dissolved and either restructured or taken back over by the county.

  • Insider says:

    GF is already gone so he cannot be the insider.

    you are as bright as the people running this place

    and to think i work with you……..

  • Outsider says:

    You idiots – I am an outsider so I cannot be the insider

    Guess the CCO has used up big ole MJ so it’s time to move on to NHC

    Still not the oldest rat in the barn but the rats are still leaving.

    Speaking of leaving…….. how’s that big ole house in AR doing that’s on the market?? Hmmm….. things not so rosy now, huh?

    Cheer up – still got the other place in Rocky Mountain High – unless that one gets gone soon too…

    CFPUA needs a new CFO (a real one this time), CEO ( a real one this time), PIO ( a real one this time)… hey, anyone see a pattern here?

  • Guest 10101 says:

    “Carey Ricks declined to go on camera for this story. She could not explain how the authority missed so much billing for so long.”

    Allow me to enlighten you Cary by unlocking the door to the obvious: Poor management.

    Overpaid – Underorganized – Unaccountable.


  • guesty says:

    So you are willing to pay more for an unnecessary position because there is only one of them than to pay for necessary positions that require many people. Yep, makes perfectly good sense.

    You make the same old argument from somebody that doesn’t provide any viable service.

    If you can’t see the need to raise the pay rates for police and sheriff but can fully back the huge amount this bobble head will make, you need help.

  • Ratepayer says:

    Well, here we go again. On the news last night there was a story that Airlie Gardens owes the CFPUA over $7,000 in unbilled sewer charges…

    So, apparently, no one at the Authority noticed that even though they were billing Airle water there was no sewer on the billing??

    What? What about all the “hard work” we have heard that Authority staff has been doing the past 4 years correcting the billing issues?

    I guess the Authority thought they were selling Airlie water and maybe they were using Port A Johns?

    So – how to fix this one?? By the way, CEO, if you are going to back bill the lady $800 you damn sure better collect this $7,000 from the County !!

    Wake up folks! What a diasaster this utility has been.

    Here’s some ideas:

    Take the $7,000 out of the CEO’s bonus $$$ he got for “fixing the billing ” – what a joke he is – he has never fixed anything

    Get the new NHC PR talking bobble head to talk to her new boss the county Manager and get the money for the Authority.

    Folks – better wake up – demand change – vote this November – vote out all incumbent City and County elected officials and then make change happen at this utility

    No sewer billing for Airlie for over 4 years now????????

    The CFPUA is pathetic.

    Pay a consultant to collect it and give them 90% ($6,300).

    Have big mouth Jason Thompson get it from County Finance pay the Authority – just make sure he doesn’t beat anyone up!

  • Guest 101 says:

    I think at the least some CFPUA staff and managers needs to be fired. They’re making higher than average salaries and providing sub-standard services. How you justify paying a Director $150K + with these kinds of ongoing issues???

  • Guest1964 says:

    How is it possible that with all the major errors, history of minimal accountability, spills, slick “spin,” corruption on steroids, as evidenced by the same people who formed the CFPUA who are again the very same, exact Same people running the Authority Board today.

    Advocates who warned us about this CFPUA when it was a seed in the heads of Jim Quinn, current Chairman, Jason “tax-n-spend” Thompson, and their cronies have been entirely barred from the Authority appointments. Commissioner Berger brought a fresh consumer first, accessible and human element to the CFPUA Board. No good deed goes unpunished, so Commissioner Berger was forcibly removed, so Quinn-Thompson-Catlin and inside the circle of trust developers could act in secret planning and scheming. Witness the recent moves to empower these people to subsidize and direct growth and steer projects to benefit themselves and their real estate industry patron.
    Commissioner Berger has been dead right on the CFPUA, and he was right, but never credited, which has become a theme and threatens the Jonathan Barfield’s and other big spenders, who count on secrecy to get what they want, at CFPUA and throughout New Hanover County. He [Berger] was the primary advocate for keeping rates down which are hammering families and folks on fixed incomes…you booted me off the Board and now its back to the same elected officials and special interests that created the beast and spend freely.

    As long as the founding career politicians and check writers stuffing checks in pockets run the CFPUA, we’ll continue to see higher rate increases, subsidies to the connected, and attacks on Commissioner Berger and others who might come along with the guts to be straight with the citizens of Wilmington and New Hanover County. Look past the media drama that is the opposite of the serious,intelligent Berger, and the reality is we need at least one or a few responsible taxpayers like Berger on every Authority Board. ABC, CFPUA, WDI, WID, shame on Jonathan Barfield, Ted Davis and Catlin for their stupid sexism and lack of interest in the public. These aren’t public servants willing to sacrifice for the public like Berger, and he deserves respect for those sacrifices alone.

    There are other good (or better, especially than the Thompson-Quinn-Catlin-developer-Ricks special interest crowd) choices less known than Berger, O’Sheilds and other voices of reason. These are the people who should be Board members, not the undemocratic creators of the Problem, the CFPUA. The County preaches accountability. Prove it? Never, not in the past 20 years. Ben David? Attitude toward corruption, stealing from the public treasury, D.A. David needs to change or go for good and not come back. If you cant take on corruption which threatens every level and branch of government, like Mr. David, you don’t merit a big salary and office like David commands but refuses to earn by virtue.

  • Looney says:

    “…you booted me off the Board and now its back to the same elected officials and special interests that created the beast and spend freely.”

    Writing in the third person then slipping to the first person?

    Earth to Brian…take the lithium, I beg you!

    Part of your problem Brian, is you are long on generalization, innuendo, demagoguery, etc., but very short on actual facts.

  • Cantfoolme says:

    Sorry, insider/outsider/ratepayer/coworker, epic fail. If they want an appetizer of vitriol, a main course of extended smoke breaks, with a side dish of rumor-mongering, they’ll call.

    With all that…they may need some exercise by long walks away from their desks. Some people really excel at that.

  • Guest211 says:


  • Insider says:

    The billing at CFPUA has never been fixed – this is just another example. After four years – more of the same , and the same lame excuses, from the same sorry management.

    Even the original consultant – MSFG – called it “a catastrophic failure”. But they were paid – to go away. Ratepayers paid for this screwup and are continuing to do so.

    Any wonder Carey Ricks refuses to comment? Probably doesn’t want to threaten that high paying upcoming County job. Guess she isn’t the oldest rat in the barn but the rats are leaving the ship now.

    The CEO holds ultimate responsibility . But he was too busy getting his bonus converted to salary after the first year when he was mad that he didn’t get the full 20% and didn’t like the headlines. Salary isn’t in the news – only bonuses. He also got his $500 / month car allowance converted to salary – another $6,000 per year. At the time the Board justified this action by saying he “was keeping the sewer in the pipes and the billing is fixed” – well, I guess they were wrong but hey, too late now, he’s got the $$$$ and the ratepayers are now once again being backbilled.
    Because the sewer is not in the pipes – recent spills- and the billing is obviously not fixed.

    Someone should file an information request to see how many staff have either been fired or quit the past four years – original Finance Officer, original Chief Operations Officer / Asst. CEO, original Customer Service Director, original Real Estate Acquisition Specialist, numerous staff, etc, etc. Anyone see a common thread here?? This is why nothing gets fixed there.

    Also – there is no help from the Board – anyone been to a Board meeting lately? Politicians, developers, non-professionals, looking out for their own self – interest. Don’t look to the Board for help.

    Gonna be hard to fill that PIO job with the specialized training required – read the job description? Got NIMS? Got milk? Might have to be someone who knows who how to keep the press out – or scare people.

    Ratepayers should seek legal advice concerning this “backbilling” – especially if you have been current on your bill with no past due amounts.

    Unfortunately for COW and NHC it will probably get much worse before it gets better. Management will have to change. And the Board.

  • outofthecloset says:

    GF you are a joke….especially when you use your old “City” title…..get a life and a job!!

  • Garp says:

    Don’t go away mad, GF…just go away.

  • guesty says:

    Isn’t this Carey Ricks the same bobble head that was just hired as the talking head for New Hanover County?

    Now she will make $98,5k a year. A talking head makes $100k but a starting deputy makes $35,131 and a starting city police officer makes $34,000.

    Does anybody else see a problem with that?

  • Guest1971 says:

    Cary is on her way out to another high-paid job with New Hanover County. She doesn’t care.

  • Economics says:

    This is the same old argument by someone who doesn’t know anything about economics. Not that the position is necessarily worth that…but the supply and demand argument “how come a professional baseball player makes x, but a teacher makes only y.

    The answer, my simple friend, is that there are many MORE teachers than folks than can hit an breaking curveball.

    So…there are many MORE deputies than talking head positions at New Hanover County.

    Your welcome.

  • coworker says:

    well well well
    You don’t read well either do you?
    Didn’t say i WORKED with you.
    Said I WORK with you…
    And I still do.
    I guess reading comprehension is not required for your job at CFPUA.
    you fit in.

  • Wilmington217 says:

    Baaaahaaaahaaaa…..Brian you’re and idiot!!! Brian we see you….baahaaahaaaaa!!!! Idiot

  • Guestwitness says:

    Like Obama some folks including some who post dozens of times try to divert attention from the real issue and skip to a side issue. Catlin and Thompson are so busy taking care of themselves and their friends we should ask why weren’t they on top of these failures sooner. That’s the fact Jack. As for the City reps= well they are on our city council so what can we expect. The issue is the utter disregard for most of the public and the lack of transparency from clowns like Catlin and Thompson which we have tolerated for too many years- this CFPUA mess and the stadium being the latest.
    The thought of catlin in Raleigh is frightening–unless it is playing for the Bulls- he would be a good fit in some ways!

  • bccatman says:

    Instead of personal attacks- why don t you fess up that you are stooges for the wilmington cabal- self servers and deceptive. This comm may have issues but you might take your own meds. As for city council and county comm better Brian than the other crap.Last We looked McCoy, Fulton and him havent been lining their own pockets- although they may wish they had given how the rot we have is!

  • UPSET says:

    Is anyone surprised?????? CFPUA has to pay for all of their raises and meetings somehow….so they hit the customer in a down economy.
    That Authority is a waste … and never should have been formed.

  • cintrek says:

    They already charge me $124 every 2mos. just for sewer-I’ve got well water. I’ve never been late myself w/ single income & only myself in the house using the toilet. I pay my bills on time every month. It’s a shame that this happens to good people but they’ll get their money one way or the other. CFPUA have gone up on the service every 6mos. since they began-52% higher. They just went up in June & will most likely go up again in December & we can’t do anything about it. But the general manager gets his raise & bonus for doing such a fine job while some of us eat less just to be able to pay the increases.

  • Guest-of-the-day says:

    company cars to and from work. Why not? They’re flush with cash from all the rate increases that just keep coming and coming…

  • Guest Redneck Across the River says:

    If you do not receive a utility bill, certainly you know something is wrong. However, if you get one which seems about correct, pay it, I feel you have done your part. If the utility messes up, that seems to be their problem. Another thought……are the past charges billed at the rate then, or the current rate? It would be possible for the utility to delibertly underbill customers only to bill them later at a higher rate. Boys and girls, can you spell “ripoff”?

  • Guest6858 says:

    CFPUA is incompetent. They need to pay for THEIR OWN mistakes, just like the rest of us. Bad management (pay increases, etc.) and total disregard for those they are supposed to serve is why they are in this mess. I’m tired of paying for the mistakes of others. If they can prove someone DELIBERATELY did not pay them, that’s fine. Otherwise, they need to EAT IT like other companys. It will teach them to be more careful in the future.

  • Guest23230 says:

    Bend over Wilmington, here it comes again.


    We forgot to bill you for this.

    Bottom line….SCREWED….!

  • Guest-of-the-day says:

    they’ve also been shuffling around what they bill for and flat rate has gone up much more than the variable that charges per usage. I wrote a software program that calculates how much I pay per gallon and back 2008, it was about 0.09 cents a gallon. In 2011 it was almost 3 cents a gallon. So every time you flush a toilet it costs you between a nickel and a dime, depending on how much your toilet uses… and you’ll still pay over 100$ every two months even if you use NO water!

  • Bob says:

    When folks write in and say, “they” should absorb it, what they’re really saying is “we” who pay our bills should absorb it. Yes, its unfortunate that the billing was overlooked and delayed and yes, that does place an undo hardship on those affected; however, should those of us who pay into CFPU have to pay these shortages and effectively pay a larger share so those who don’t or didn’t pay are not liable? Think about CFPU’s income and where its from… it’s from us who pay their bills. If there is a shortage of money rates go up and everyone pays a little more. Were those affected thinking they were receiving utility service for free just because the utility company messed up and forgot to bill them? I believe they should pay what they owe, just as I do. I would agree that it would be fair to spread these payemnts out, but to not pay because a billing mistake was made?,,, that’s not right adn fair to everyone else.

  • Julie BarefootGuest says:

    Absolutely not! Rates have continued to increase as well as their payroll. They have people to read the meters and if customers were not properly billed, its not the fault of the customer. Its the fault of CFPUA and they should absorb the loss.

  • Guest27 says:

    Is anyone really surprised, except the poor woman this happened to? I feel in these cases the Authority is way out of line. I cannot believe they have 3years to find these stupid mistakes!!! Then, bam – gotcha! Ridiculous.

  • Commonsensenotcommontoday says:

    Whether billing issues or sewage spills, CFPUA should adopt the motto, “We Do Sh*tty Work.”

    Thank God the military has never been as incompetent as these bozos….or we’d all be speaking Japanese.

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