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Thousands of accounts affected by city water bill glitches

Posted at 5:34 PM, Nov 13, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-13 19:28:22-05

No longer than six months.  that’s how long the man hired to fix the city’s utility bill issues says he needs to finish the job.

“If I’m done in four months, three months, I can pass it on and move on,” said Project Manager Peter Collins.

At the heart of Collins’ presentation to the City Council Tuesday, the number of accounts affected by glitches since the city’s current utility billing system went on-line last December.

The city has between 83,000-84,000 water customers, more than 22,000, or more than one-quarter were affected.

The numbers are startling.  Since December 2017, 853 accounts were never billed.

Why?  Because billing cycle date wasn’t a required field when opening an account.

“Sometimes it was entered, sometimes it wasn’t,” said Collins.  “Now that we know that condition, it’s become a restricted field that you have to enter or you’re not going to be able to complete the profile for that individual.”

2,532 accounts had sporadic billing.  That’s where a customer didn’t get a bill for one or more months, and when the next bill came, it was as if nothing happened.

Also 19,027 accounts experienced consolidated billing.  That’s where missed usage was added into the current bill as one month, throwing off average consumption rates.

“There’s an overage and there’s an underage,” said Collins.  “We have to exactly figure out for each one of the cases.”

According to Collins, the city didn’t properly test the billing system before implementation.  He says if he were in charge, the system wouldn’t have gone live without at least a full month’s testing.

“There’s 20 separate billing cycles within a month, not all 20 were actually completed,” said Collins.

Collins also told the council the year end audit might be delayed.  He found another glitch which causes some cash payments to not show up on the general ledger.  That audit can’t be finished until the numbers add up.