City Council to receive utility audit results Tuesday
By LYNETTE SOWELL
The wait for the report of the audited Copperas Cove utility accounts will soon be over, with the Copperas Cove city council to receive the results next week.
“The utility accounts agreed upon procedures will be presented to the City Council on February 5, 2019. A representative from Weaver and Tidwell will present the findings during the public meeting,” said Velia Key, Director of Finance for the City of Copperas Cove. “Weaver tested 150 utility accounts, but performed analytical procedures to the entire population (total utility accounts).”
Austin-based Weaver & Tidwell, LLC, performed the audit for $16,000, with that cost being paid for out of the city’s Water & Sewer fund.
The request for an external audit of the city’s utility accounts began as early as May 2018, when then place 1 councilman David Morris called for a discussion on an audit of the city’s water meters due to resident complaints of increased bills and water usage. With the transition to FATHOM for management of the utility accounts in 2016 came installation of new “smart” water meters for all accounts.
At that time, Morris expressed his concern that citizens were continuing to experience water billing issues and he believed a third party audit of how much water is purchased versus what customers are billed, would benefit the city. In May, the council directed interim city manager Ryan Haverlah to provide a monthly report via information item that would inform the council about how much water the city bills its customers versus the amount it purchases from Bell County Water Conservation and Improvement District.
Then on July 17, Morris called for an external financial audit of water accounts with FATHOM. At its Sept. 18 meeting, the council directed Haverlah to move forward with hiring Weaver & Tidwell, the same firm which has conducted the city’s annual financial audit, to audit 1 percent of accounts managed by FATHOM.
At the council’s November 20 meeting, Interim City Manager Ryan Haverlah said the city had requested copies of the sampling that the auditor received from FATHOM, and that staff was also providing information to the auditor on each of those sampling accounts. It was anticipated then that the audit would be completed by the end of November, but that didn’t happen.
Haverlah did advise the council at that time that a report would prepared and provided to city council and also available for anyone interested in the results of that audit.
“Once the results are complete and we can look at those, we can make better, informed decisions on how to proceed and what to proceed with,” Haverlah said. At that time, he also gave explanations were some of the double billings had occurred, to include swapped meters identified, and in some cases, a customer moved into a property immediately after another customer moved out, with Haverlah also citing timing issues when work orders are received from FATHOM, where certain disconnects and reconnections were concerned.
In addition to the double billing, other issues included ACH drafts not posting on the automatic draft date and customers being charged late fees and being issued disconnect notices, as was the case with former place 2 council man James Pierce Jr. and other customers like Crystal Antoine, with FATHOM not having a record of one of her payments, after which she was then charged for her payment having “insufficient funds” which was not the case, according to Antoine’s bank records.
The audit report will be presented at the 6 p.m. meeting, which will take place at the city council chambers, located in the city’s Technology Building, located at 508 S. 2nd St.