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Monday, April 9, 2012

Isn't this being charged TWICE?! City of: Joplin


Here is the source link for the story below

This "news" makes no sense to me.. Isn't it the job of the utility companies to bill their own customers?

Now the city of Joplin is taking over the billing duties at a cost of an estimated $165,000.00 per year. That's after the initial start up phase which is expected to cost $273,000.00 in the first year.

My beef is won't Joplin be using taxer payer money to pay for a billing system with which to charge tax payers?


Isn't this just crony capitalism on display?


April 8, 2012
Joplin to take over sewer, trash billing
By Debby Woodin
Globe Staff Writer

JOPLIN, Mo. — Joplin residents will see a change later this year in how they are billed for sewer and trash service.

The city will issue its own bills for those services, taking over from Missouri American Water Co., said Leslie Jones, the city’s finance director.

“The water company will quit in December, but it will take us that long to get it all set up,” Jones said. “But they did give us longer than all the other cities because of the tornado. And we can do it early if we get it ready, but we have to have it done by Dec. 14.”

The water company, which handles bills for many cities in its service area, has made a business decision to phase out that part of the business as it changes software, said Matt Barnhart, operations manager for the water company’s Joplin branch.

“We’re changing all of our operating software, so we decided to look at different software companies. We elected to not add that option,” Barnhart said. “We felt it was better for us as a business to provide quality water and sewer services and to get out of the billing business.”

Barnhart said the company will work with the city to make the changeover seamless for local residents.

“We’ll work with the city and individuals 100 percent to make sure they have all the information they need to make the transition,” he said.

Jones looked at the costs of having another company bill for the city and the alternative of hiring an employee to do the billing in-house. Several companies she checked turned down the job or would only sell software to do the billing. Two companies estimated what they would charge to do the billing at $237,600 and $248,400, or $1.10 to $1.15 per bill. By Jones’ estimates, the city could do the billing at about 76 cents per bill after paying the initial start-up costs. If the final costs are different from the estimates, the billing cost could change, Jones said.

Jones estimated the cost for the city to do its own billing the first year at $273,000. About $100,000 of that would be the cost to purchase the software. There would be some other one-time costs, Jones said, and the annual cost after those start-up costs would be about $165,000. There will be about 18,000 bills a month to issue and collect, Jones said. The biggest cost would be postage to mail the bills at about $97,000.

The City Council has authorized Jones to proceed with arrangements to do the work in-house.

She said arrangements will tentatively be made for residents to pay the bills by mail, at City Hall or online, but those details will have to be worked out later.

The city will still assess sewer charges based on an average of the amount of water used by individual customers. The water company will supply that figure to the city for each customer annually.

If the sewer and trash bill is not paid, the water company will disconnect water service to that address for the city, Jones said.

A date for the conversion will be announced later.

New approach

The city started billing for sewer and trash service through the water company in 1998.

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