Mayor says hospital has been underbilled for natural gas

City officials expect to bill Thibodaux Regional Medical Center substantially more on its future natural gas bills after learning the hospital’s meter readings have been wrongly recorded for years.

Mayor Tommy Eschete told the City Council that the gas meter had been misread and the meter installed at the hospital was the incorrect model.

The city is considering asking the hospital to pay for years of under-billings.

But Eschete said figuring out how much is owed is difficult because city officials don’t know how long the misreadings have been going on.

“It looks like this has been going on for years. I’m not talking about one or two, but many years,” Eschete said.

Billing AMF Utiliserv, the company the city contracts for meter readings, isn’t an option, the mayor said.

“The problem is that our contract doesn’t give any liability to those contractors. The fact that they may have misread those meters and under-collected what should have been collected doesn’t matter. The liability still falls back on the city,” he said.

Eschete said he has been working with the hospital in trying to determine the loss. Thibodaux Regional officials couldn’t be reached for comment.

City officials will compare the bills over the next three to four months to make sure the problem has been fixed, Eschete said.

City Councilwoman Candace Johnson said she’s heard the loss for Thibodaux could be close to $600,000, but Eschete disputed the number, saying no one knows at this point.