City's mistake costs Tulsa woman hundreds on water bill; inaccurate reading caused by dirty meter

"I took one handful, then two, then another, and I uncovered it," Cindy Alumbaugh said as she wiped away the dirt to show her water meter in her front yard.

Just a few handfuls of dirt is what cost the Tulsa woman a "mountain" of money.

"At first I laughed when I showed it to my husband," Alumbaugh said.

After getting a water bill for $596 dollars in January and then a $661 dollar bill in March, Alumbaugh thought it had to be a mistake.

"Then when I called the city and was told it was right, then I lost it," she said. "I can't afford that much money."

A stay-at-home mom with a family of four living on a fixed income, Alumbaugh was even more upset to find out the city had been greatly under-estimating her water meter for nearly a year.

"It's my responsibility for their mistake," she said.

The Tulsa Water Department explained to Alumbaugh that because there was dirt covering the meter they could not get an accurate read. So they are charging her for all the months they misread her meter.

In October, the city got a work order to uncover the water meter.

"They took an accurate read for the past months, put it all together and billed me one big bill," Alumbaugh said.

But the mother of two says paying hundreds for a little extra handwork is ridiculous because this problem could have been easily fixed much earlier.

"They didn't need a shovel, they didn't need heavy equipment, just their hands...They're workers!" she exclaims.

And that little amount of dirt ended up costing a lot of dough.

The city is allowing Alumbaugh to pay $50 dollars a month for nine months, on top of her current bill.

They city told the Problem Solvers that the address was listed as "no meter" in the system because it was "buried," so workers couldn't find it.

They also said that the city is not responsible for notifying the customers when their bill is being estimated, other than indicated on their monthly bill.

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