Published on August 25th, 2016 |3
Black community leaders demand city collect Buckhead condo’s $1M back water bill
Former City Councilman Derrick Boazman took the lead standing at the front door walkway to the Phoenix stating, “It is almost incredulous that we are here today because some of the richest folk in the city feel as if they do not have to pay for water and sewer services when all the rest of us in Atlanta have had to pay our fair share. Where I come from we call that stealing,” he stated.
“We have poor folks in this town who are struggling to pay some of the highest water and sewer rates in the country, but some of the richest folk in the city want to get free water?,” Boazman asked. “Hell no, this must stop and stop now.”
The issue that brought Boazman, State Sen. Vincent Fort and Michael Langford, United Youth Adult Conference president, to the front door of the Phoenix, at 2881 Peachtree Road, was a July report that a billing error allowed the building not to be properly billed for over a decade and now Department of Watershed management is suggesting that the owner of the property not have to pay any back bills.
While the trio of African American community leaders are upset that the Phoenix Home Owners Association has not stepped up and paid the back water/sewer bills, which amount to around $1 million, they all seem equally or more peeved that the city administration is willing to right off that amount of money.
Back in July, investigations by CBS46 and WSB-TV’s Richard Belcher found that the Phoenix homeowner’s association had not been properly paying the city of Atlanta for water and sewer services for almost 15 years.
“It could be anywhere from $900,000 to $1.8 million that we owe,” condo owner Chuck Walker told CBS46 at the time. Atlanta’s Department of Watershed Management told CBS46 they share the responsibility for the error and will not be back billing the condo association.
Walker loves where he lives, but hates the recent issue involving questionable billing involving his homeowners association at the Phoenix condos on Peachtree Road across from The Peach shopping center in Buckhead.
“I’m assuming that there’s enough money in the fund to cover any expense we have from past due water bills,” Walker told the television station for its copyrighted story.
Former Atlanta school superintendent Errol Davis is a member of the homeowners association. He said the condos were being over charged for water and under charged for sewer usage for nearly a decade.
Meanwhile, Channel 2 Action News investigative reporter Richard Belcher found the homeowners’ association knew it wasn’t being billed for at least 12 years.
“It’s shocking to me. If everyone knew this story, it would cause outrage to everyone,” Phoenix condo owner Jack Richardson told WSB’s Belcher in July. Richardson moved into the building in 2001, just after it opened.
Richardson became aware of the billing problem from a homeowners’ association audit that stated: “As of December 31, 2003, the association had not received a bill for a meter that services
common areas…This has been a problem from the beginning.”
Richardson told Belcher that he was told the homeowners’ association would pay the bill. But it did not.
In early 2015, 11 years after that audit revealed the billing problem, other residents began to ask questions. One email to fellow residents stated: “it’s very unfortunate that the board…made the extremely questionable decision more than a decade ago not to discover why the association was being grossly under-billed.”
Another emailed: “Surely the directors did not believe the ‘free’ services would last forever.”
WSB reported that another resident told the TV station that HOA board member Davis had said, “The board did not feel that there was an ethical or legal obligation to attempt to pay….unless the city sent a bill.”
“I believe over 15 years we owe approximately $1 million without penalties and interest, just on the bill alone,” Richardson had stated. He is a financial adviser.
According to reports, after members from the HOA board approached the city last fall, the city found meter and billing problems at the condo location that stretched back perhaps as far as 2001.
As of October 2015, the HOA started paying both sewer and water bills.
But the word has been that the Department of Watershed Management, as well as Mayor Kasim Reed’s administration, has no intent on back-billing the Phoenix for the unpaid water/sewer bills.
According to Lillian Govus, a spokesperson for DWM who attended the press conference in Buckhead Thursday, DWM shares the blame. She said the city did send water bills to Phoenix, but for years had not billed for sewer services. She said collecting the money is still an open issue.
Boazman told the media Thursday, “The city cannot legally give a gratuity. I’m trying to figure out who lives here so that the city is willing to give away $1 million.”
“City Hall has lost its way,” said Sen. Fort. “There is no better proof of that than what is happening right here.”
Fort added, “I have not heard anything from members of City Council. It was our hope that when the new commissioner came on there would be a new day at the Department of Watershed Management. It is time for City Hall to work for everybody.”
Phoenix condo owner Richardson clearly stated Thursday what all those at the press conference agreed with (except apparently the representative from DWM): “I believe we should have to pay for the water and sewer services we have received all these years.”