Expensive utility fee error costs Mt. Dora $2M

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MOUNT DORA, Fla. —

The city of Mount Dora is trying to recover $2 million in unpaid utility fees.

The city failed to collect the money off the construction of hundreds of new homes.

Sullivan Ranch is one of the larger and newer subdivisions in Mount Dora.

Over the last four years, the builder, Centex Homes, got an unintended $2 million break on the construction.

"The error was kind of on both sides. Centex wasn't following through to make sure the city wasn't cheating, and the city didn't do a great job in making sure all the steps were taken on their side, too," said Kelda Senior with the City of Mount Dora.

The builder had a prepaid account with the city to connect its new homes to utilities, but the city failed to tap that account for payments.

The builder never actually paid for the new water meters for more than 400 homes, or the fees to the city to hook them up.

City officials say its departments that handle pre-paid accounts weren't doing a good job of communicating, or counting.

A utility clerk finally caught the multimillion-dollar mistake.

The city said Centex has already forwarded $200,000 toward the debt.

Officials said they expect the balance will be paid up soon. They said there was nothing dishonest going on but an expensive mistake.

"A lot of money. But again, the positive thing is the money will be recovered, so taxpayers aren't at a loss and this developer can continue to do their work," Senior said.

The Mount Dora city attorney and an outside auditor are investigating the exact cause of the errors and will come up with policies to prevent it from happening again.