By Peter A. Napolitano,
Councilor At Large
For the past few weeks, I have been inundated with questions about the latest Water Bills. These bills have always been sent 4 times a year. At the request of many of our residents, the City will start to bill monthly. The rationale to change to a monthly billing system would make it easier for residents to budget their payment and it will help in addressing any potential water issues, leaks and such. I am not opposed to the conversion of water bills to a monthly billing system, but I have two chief concerns.
The reported long lines at City hall for residents to pay their water bills shows that the City was ill prepared to deal with the change. Additionally, some residents were assessed a late fee in error. This is the first month of the transition so you can expect some issues, but you need answers to your questions. Councilor Wayne Matewsky and I asked to meet with a representative from the Water Department to discuss these issues.
We met with Eric Demas, Chief Financial Officer and Greg St. Louis, Executive Director of DPW to discuss the new billing cycle, what worked, what failed and how next to proceed. Mr. St. Louis apologized for the early transition confusion, but noted as a result, additional staff have been trained to be better prepared for the next billing cycle and that the City has expedited a water bill online payment system, providing an electronic option and help reducing the lines at City hall.
Mr. Demas stated that the person who deals with water bill issues has been relocated from the City Yards to the City Hall Collectors office to help address any resident water bill issues as well. Finally, the vendors the City uses to print the bills created an error with the first monthly bills resulting in charging a late fee for the overlap of the quarterly to monthly billing.
The problems have been worked out with the Billing System and Mr. Demas has made assurances that any unnecessary late charges would be credited. Residents should call the 311 line if they have a water bill issue. I have suggested that the Water Department make the public more aware of the transition process which they agreed.
I will monitor the steps taken to improve the process but you should review your water
bill during the transition period so corrections if necessary can be made. Together we will make sure your money doesn’t go down the drain. Thank you.