VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — For more than 20 years, the City of Virginia Beach has been paying the power bills for offices it doesn’t occupy.
According to City Auditor Lyndon Remias, approximately $143,877 has been spent in electric costs for offices in the 3300 Building at 397 Little Neck Road. The city treasurer and crime prevention departments had once leased space there, but left in 1995.
“It obviously happened many years ago… we’re not sure,” Remias said. “The department who signed the contract, the Department of General Services, is no longer in existence.”
Remias said it’s an unfortunate mistake from the past, and one that went easily unnoticed under the city’s previous payment plan. Until recently, the city centralized its payment of hundreds of Dominion bills.
Now, using a new software program, individual departments are able to manage their own power consumption.
“And that’s when it was discovered, lo and behold, this meter, this account, does not belong to the city.”
That was in February. Remias said it’s understandable how the bills got lost in the shuffle before that; the city reportedly pays more than $23 million annually for energy.
Virginia Beach resident Nader Abouelgubein believes the lost funds are really just a “drop in the bucket.”
“It could be worse, that’s not that big of a deal… those kinds of things happen all the time.”
Others in Virginia Beach aren’t as forgiving.
“That’s ridiculous. I mean, for 20 years? How did that slip through the cracks? You have a building that you’ve been paying power for, for 20 years? That just doesn’t make sense to me at all,” said Briana Coon.
Coon can’t help but feel disappointed when thinking of all of the ways her tax dollars could have been better spent.
“We think it’s going for our housing, or renovating the Oceanfront, or, you know, our police department, our fire department,” she said. “But… nope, it’s going to buildings that we wouldn’t know about, that they’ve been taxing us for for years… how do we know there’s not more than one building?”
Remias said the city is in the process of ensuring that erroneous payments aren’t being made elsewhere – and, that they won’t be made again. He also said the city is working to recover whatever lost funds possible.
“I’m sure there’s been various tenants and management companies that have been managing the space, so to try to assign a dollar amount of who owes what back to the city, it is going to be very difficult,” he said. “But any amount that we get, I’ll be satisfied.”
10 On Your Side reached out to the current property manager, Palms Associates, for comment. We are waiting to hear back.