Many utility customers across the state have received bills that are higher than normal this winter. But if your bill was 10 times the normal amount, wouldn't you ask some questions?
It turns out that was not the reaction at the state of Tennessee. The bills in question involve the Governor's Executive Residence in Nashville, and officials simply paid them, costing taxpayers a lot of money.
The water and sewer bills at the governor's mansion had been running about $500 a month when, all of a sudden, they were $3,000 a month, $4,000 a month and even more.
But it wasn't the state's finance people who caught the problem.
"My wife kept saying, 'I'd like to see the utility bills here,'" Gov. Bill Haslam said.
It all started with the curiosity of First Lady Crissy Haslam.
The bills showed the water flow wasn't normal. Something was wrong.
"Nobody had been paying attention to that," Gov. Haslam said.
The Channel 4 I-Team found five bills at the residence that topped $5,000 a piece, with one month's bill charging the state's taxpayers $6,358.
The water from a $6,300 bill could have filled an Olympic-size swimming pool one-and-a-half times.
But the water bills at the Executive Residence were paid month after month, with no one following up to see why they were so high.
And they weren't just high last year. This has been ongoing for more than three years.
"Turns out a water line had been cut way back during construction, and no one ever paid attention to it," Gov. Haslam said.
That construction work was done back during the Phil Bredesen administration when an underground addition was made, and renovations were completed throughout the home.
The water had been leaking into the soil from a cracked pipe in the front yard all those years, with the state just paying the bill month after month.
"I'm confident that we're saving the taxpayers money on things that hadn't been addressed before," Gov. Haslam said.
The Channel 4 I-Team asked the Tennessee Department of General Services why this went on for so long. While no one would go on camera for this story, they told us they expected the water bills to be high during the construction period, but it appears no one noticed that when the construction was over the bills never went back down.
The bottom line: three years worth of water and sewer bills cost the taxpayers $178,843.
In the very first month after the damaged water line was fixed, the water and sewer bill at the governor's mansion returned to less than $500.
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