ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. (WAVY) — Citizens concerned over utility bill problems felt literally unheard Wednesday during a town hall meeting, where the building acoustics were so poor that even some council members expressed disappointment.
“It’s almost a slap in the face,” said Bridget Colbert, founder of Enough is Enough With Elizabeth City Utilities.
“You can’t hear nothing,” Maria Mullen, another citizen, said of the harsh echo filling the Knobbs Creek Recreation Center gymnasium.
From 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., the meeting was packed, with speaker after speaker denouncing city leaders for the ongoing billing errors.
City Manager Rich Olson maintains that city staff members are moving forward in solving the issues, which he has attributed to the city switching from its longtime software program, Logics, to Edmunds.
The city has now reverted back to Logics, but citizens told 10 On Your Side that the problems persist.
Mullen, who said she was once homeless in part due to her high utility bills, doesn’t trust city leaders to resolve the issues.
“They’re not gonna do nothing,” Mullen said. “Nothing has changed.”
“We just had people in our group that went in to make a payment, asked for a printout, and they’re missing December cash payments that supposedly are already entered,” Colbert said. “So somewhere, something is seriously wrong… Something is seriously wrong. It’s all a big mess.”
Colbert said the city has also been failing to adequately communicate with citizens; it wasn’t until the last council meeting that she was informed the city had temporarily suspended bank drafting.
“We’re not finding stuff out until it’s too late and we’re behind in bills,” she said.
Some said they appreciated city leaders responding to questions during the meeting, but many couldn’t make out what was being said.
“We’re getting some answers,” Colbert said. “But what those answers are, I couldn’t tell you.”
At the last council meeting, Colbert read aloud a letter she obtained, written from the Edmunds CEO to Olson. The April memo requested $65,000 and blamed the city’s staff for the utility billing problems.
During Wednesday’s town hall, a city official read aloud the subsequent exchange of messages, each word loudly echoing through the gymnasium.
10 On Your Side requested copies of the correspondence. As of this article’s publishing time, those letters had not been received.