Residents voice water bill concerns to city council
By LYNETTE SOWELL
Two Copperas Cove residents came to city council to speak their piece on the water bills they’ve received since the city has installed new water meters and the utility billing is being transferred to Fathom Water Management Systems.
The first was Janice Stalder, who said she’s lived in Copperas Cove since 1978, and that her family’s lived here since before Fort Hood came.
“I have seen Copperas Cove do some wonderful things, and I’ve seen Copperas Cove do some not-so-wonderful things over the years. I was about to accuse you of a not-so-wonderful one tonight,” Stalder said, adding that thanks to Kevin Keller and the city’s finance director, Ryan Haverlah, she was “in a bit better mood with you right now.”
“I’m still going to encourage you to be sure how you notify people of something that’s changing right now. I have paid my water bill by bank draft to the City of Copperas Cove by bank draft since 1992. I’ve gotten rather spoiled by it, I admit,” she said. However, she said she received a letter in the mail stating that the automatic bank draft payment was going away, but now she understands customers will be able to set that up again in a few weeks.
“Please be careful how you notify people, particularly the older people here in town. We’re not able to pay the bills as easily. When I’m out of town, I’m in an area where cell phones don’t work about half the time and the internet drops me. It’s hard to pay bills. . .I understand I get to get it again here in a few weeks, and I’ll be perfectly happy.”
The city sent out a letter dated February 24 to utility customers who use the auto-pay option for their utility bills, informing those customers that the city will not process any bank or credit card drafts after March 3 and that all bills received after February 16 will require automatic bank draft customers to make/initiate a payment.
“Protection of your banking account and credit card information is of high importance to the City; therefore, your banking and credit card information will not be released to other entities,” the letter also said.
In order to protect that personal information, Fathom will be sending information on how to set up auto-payment in the new billing system with the next bills customers receive after March 20.
Kevin Keller, the city’s public information officer, said additionally that all utility customers will soon receive a letter from Fathom on behalf of the city regarding further details on account management.
Stalder was followed by Dottie Marion, another longtime resident—since 1974, she told the council—and had issues with her most recent water bills. She questioned why her bill had jumped from one month to the next, and her household is only two persons.
Marion isn’t the only customer who has noticed large changes in their water bills.
“Some reading periods were longer than others. However, we hope to be back on track within the next month,” Keller told the Leader-Press on Wednesday.
Last spring, the City of Copperas Cove entered into an agreement with FATHOM Water Management, Inc. for the company to provide the FATHOM “Smart Grid for Water”. The cost of the changeover, including new meters and infrastructure, cost the city just over $7,000,000, to be paid for by annual certificate of obligation bonds.
Fathom is now in the process of concluding the transition of services to include utility billing and customer care operations for customers.
According to past press releases from the city, customers will have “real-time” access to their water usage along with billing information. Fathom has an app that customers will be able to download to smartphones.
“Citizens may always reach out to us with questions they may have,” Keller said. “(The) best contact is Ryan Haverlah, Budget Director/Assistant to the City Manager.”
Haverlah can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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