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Roberts: Metering issues not tied to busted employee

By Sherri Ellington Former Barnesville meter reader Marcus Richardson, arrested last week on Violation of the Georgia Controlled Substances Act for possession of nine pounds of alleged synthetic marijuana, is also facing accusations of improper meter reading from Barnesville water and electricity customers. Rosalind Smith said she became suspicious when her utility bill jumped from $200 in July to $600 in August then $500 in September. The two suspect bills said the meters were read on Aug. 23 and Sept. 23. ’There’s no way in the world we could have used that much so I decided to find out what was going on. It was actually less when my three girls were out of school,’ said Smith. ‘Now I have a $1,000 bill up there I’m not going to pay. He either guessed or made a mistake.’ Smith lives on Northside Drive in one of two new homes built in a city-sponsored project near Railroad Street right before the real estate market collapsed. So her $600 bill remained unpaid until she received the $500 bill, then she double-checked the meter numbers on the bill with those on her meters. Both the water and electricity had been overestimated. Her electric meter read 23079 while the bill read 24032. The water meter read 291 while the bill read 293. ’I knew he’d read it wrong,’ she said. ‘In all, the bills said we’d used 2,000 kilowatts in two months. There’s no way. We’ve already talked to the city about it. I want to let other people know to pay attention and check their bills. He had written wrong numbers down for a whole lot of people,’ including a neighbor whose bill also jumped to around $500. In response, she said, city workers were out re-reading meters on Friday. However, city manager Kenny Roberts said the workers were out reading the meters for the next billing cycle, though he was familiar with Smith’s case. ’It was a simple over-billing,’ Roberts said. ‘It’ll correct itself next month and reflect her usage was less.’ Of some 7,000 meters read each month, he said, about 40 are misread, a rate of about half a percent. ’It wasn’t anything to do with Marcus Richards,’ he said. ‘He no longer works for the city; we’re treating it as a voluntary resignation. We had to call in two of our older workers to read the meters last week because he wasn’t here to do his job.’ UPDATE: Maj. Brad White of the LCSO reported late Monday that Richardson had a previous bust in 2001 in which he was caught with large amounts of cocaine and marijuana in a GBI operation. Sheriff’s office records indicate that case went federal, White said.

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