FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The city cut off the water service of a well-known philanthropist on Tuesday in Fort Lauderdale after she was stuck with a bill over an old city meter.
For decades, Essie Reed, better known as South Florida’s Big Mama, has gone above and beyond to help children and families in need. Her events during Christmas and Thanksgiving regularly make headlines.
In August, Local 10 News reported she had run into some trouble with her water bill. The city recognized there were “unusually high readings” and replaced her old meter with a new one.
Once the new meter was installed, her bills went back to normal, which signaled the issue was not related to high usage. But she was still stuck with the nearly $2,200 that had spiked more than a year ago.
She learned the “high-reading balance” could have been adjusted if a plumber had found the problem. A government official offered a grant to help, but she felt that was unfair, and she refused it.
“I have no reason to lie. I didn’t want the government money paying for a bill that I did not use,” she said.
Her family and friends quickly stepped in to pay for the bill and her service was reconnected on Tuesday night. She wants the city to return the money and find a way so that this doesn’t happen to anyone else.
“If I have to sit on the steps of the city, I have to sit out there and talk to myself, we’re going to talk about it and we’re going to get it straightened out,” she said.
The city claims there were no separate disconnect notices sent out since these are included in the bill and property owners have an obligation to pay.