Complaints poured in to Hamlet City Hall on Thursday, after residents received their first water bills determined under a new rate system. City Manager Jonathan Blanton said he and several other city personnel — some connected with the water department, some not — spent the day answering phone calls, checking meters for leaks and explaining why the bills were, in most cases, higher than the ones that went out just last month. “Every (telephone) line the city’s got is on fire — blink, blink, blink, blink, blink,” Blanton said Thursday afternoon, expressing some surprise at the reaction. The new rate system assesses water and sewer fees by usage, plus a base fee. The base fee for water became $18 for residents —a drop from $21 — and for sewer use, $13, a drop from $16. Users are charged per 1,000 gallons, with the fees rising as usage climbs.