An Opa-locka man whose excessive water bill sent him on a five-year journey to get it fixed may have helped 40,000 of his fellow residents.
George Suarez Jr. said it all began when he received an improbable water bill in 2016.
“It was about $1,100 rounded off and my reaction was like, this can’t be true, it’s only me and the dog. My wife and kids were down out of the country,” Suarez told NBC 6 Wednesday. “We received two other bills high, also one $900, the other was $1,200, and it rounded off close to $4,500 by the end of it.”
Suarez and his wife found they weren’t alone.
“My wife started going door-to-door, reaching out to residents in the neighborhood and found that a lot of other people were overcharged,” he said.
Suarez sued for himself and 40,000 other residents. Now, there’s a settlement between the city and those living in Opa-locka.
“After half a decade, we were able to reach an agreement that’s fair, that’s adequate, that’s a good deal,” said Suarez’s attorney, Michael Pizzi. “The City is going to put a combined $3 million, $1 million in cash and $2 million in credits into a fund to be administered by an independent claims administrator.”
John Pate, Opa-locka’s city manager, said the class action lawsuit was a cloud that rained over the city’s head.
“Brand new meters have been installed and we’ve insured our residents are properly charged,” Pate said. “Our residents can rest assured that they are being provided the fairest and most efficient, and most effective water service possible.”
The Opa-locka City Commission has to sign off on the deal and so does the court, but those are expected to happen soon. Anyone who lives in Opa-locka will be notified about how to put in their claim for a credit on their future bills, or how to get cash in hand.
“I think that it ended up for the residents, everybody gets, they get made whole, get to see their tax dollars come back to them,” Suarez said.
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