Copperas Cove Utility Department flooded with calls, customers
By BRITTANY FHOLER
During the last few days of December and first days of January, the City of Copperas Cove’s Utility Administration office has been inundated with up to 1,800 calls a day.
City Manager Ryan Haverlah updated city council members and residents during a regular council meeting Tuesday evening about the progress of transitioning from third-party utility billing company Fathom back to an in-house full-service Utility Administration Department.
The normal amount of calls per day should be between 300 and 400, but between December 30 and Jan 2, the number of daily calls from customers increased from 800 to over 1,300. On January 6, that number rose to 1,800 calls. With only a small number of customer service representatives, the office does not have the capacity for that many calls, so staff members have been recording messages to call customers back to help with their accounts.
“Thank you for again riding through another utility transition process with us,” Haverlah said. “It’s been difficult. It will hopefully become less difficult in the next several weeks before we send bills out.”
The reason for the call volume came because of the final bills sent out by Fathom before they closed. The city asked Fathom to send out bills for Cycles 4, 5, 6 and 7 earlier than their normal billing cycle. Bills for Cycle 4 went out with a normal billing date and due date. Bills for Cycle 5, 6 and 7 did not, and the bills sent for those cycles did not match their normal bill or due date. All bills for Cycles 5, 6 and 7 had a due date of Monday, January 6, 2020.
“So essentially, approximately 6,000 customers all had payments due on one day in an office that’s not sized to accommodate 6,000 customers where we can’t answer the phone for 6,000 customers,” Haverlah said. “We don’t have online payments active right now, and yesterday was very difficult to get through. There were a lot of people at City Hall yesterday.”
No staff parked in City Hall’s parking lot on Monday and customers still had to circle around to look for parking, according to Haverlah.
“Once we begin sending out bills to customers with our new CIS system, we will resume our normal bill date and due date cycles, so we won’t have 6,000 customers due all on one day in the future,” Haverlah said.
Currently, the city is in the middle of the initial six-week period of no bills being sent out, with the last bills sent out by Fathom in mid-December. There will be no bills sent out until a Customer Information System is put in place, estimated to be early to mid-February.
Without having a CIS in place, the city cannot track who has or hasn’t paid. As a result, there will be no late fees on payments made during this period, nor will there be disconnections completed as a result of nonpayment.
Haverlah anticipated online payments would be available soon. The holdup is that Chase Bank has not given the city a merchant account yet, but once they do, the city will be able to accept online payments.
Other updates regarding the transition to an in-house Utility Administration department include the hiring of additional staff and the selection of Tyler Technology (Incode) for the CIS system.
“We’ve begun that transition. We’ve expanded the utility administration office and begun the process of looking at renovating the 305 S. Main Street old utility administration office,” Haverlah said.
UTILITY CUSTOMER PAYMENT OPTIONS
Customers can still pay their bills by:
Paying in person at City Hall, 914 S. Main Street, Suite A or Suite B;
Mailing payment (check or money order) and their account information to City of Copperas Cove Utility Administration, P.O. Drawer 1419 Copperas Cove TX 76522;
Utilizing drop-off locations at City Hall and the Copperas Cove Police Department. Suite A has a drop off location available inside during business hours, while Suite B has an outside drop off location for after business hours.
The Copperas Cove Police Department, 302 E. Ave E is accepting sealed drop-off payments handed to a Records Clerk or Communications Operator, available 24 hours.