Council receives updates from city staff on utility account issues
By LYNETTE SOWELL
The City of Copperas Cove’s Utility Administration has begun to provide weekly updates to the Copperas Cove city council regarding the status of customer complaints on utility accounts, along with any equipment issues that FATHOM has encountered.
The council heard complaints from a number of residents at both its September 5 and 19 regular council meetings. On September 22, the city’s Utility Administration Department provided an information item to the council which is available to the public on the city’s website.
Among the issues addressed in the September 22 report from the department are customer bills for Cycle 7 dated July 28, 2017 that included 16 days of consumption instead of 30 days and bills dated Aug. 28, 2017 for 45 days instead of 31.
“Since September 8, staff determined additional customers were impacted by this discrepancy. Fathom indicated approximately 2,500 accounts in cycles 1, 6, and 7 have similar discrepancies,” the report stated. “Through the last two bills, these customers were billed approximately 61 days total, which means these customers were not overcharged. Fathom reported the problem occurred with a date entered manually when billing Cycles 4 and 5 and was not corrected when Cycles 6, 7, and 1 were billed in sequence. FATHOM is preparing to send a letter to all customers explaining the discrepancy that occurred.”
One aspect of the report addresses the issue of meter read collectors throughout the city, three of which have issues. The collector at Hughes Mountain is being exchanged for another collector, the Turkey Creek area collector needs parts exchanged and is being troubleshooted by Neptune, the manufacturer. The third collector with an issue, at Mountaintop North, is being relocated to provide better connection to the Skyline Valley neighborhoods.
The report further mentions a request from the council of a comparison between the amount of water purchased by the city from its supplier and the amount it has billed customers for consumption.
“Staff is gathering the information from three sources and should have the full comparison to City Council once complete,” the report states.
At the same time, the city is now in the process of its annual audit, with the external auditing firm specifically focusing on utility billing.
“The external auditors have requested specific data on overall policies and reports and will test numerous accounts for internal controls and accuracy.”
The report from September 18 contains a list of 16 complaints, both residential and commercial, and gives the status of the complaints’ resolutions.
Complaints range from being billed for higher-than-usual consumption, with the explanation being the before-mentioned issue with the billing cycles. Another issue was one customer having a meter installed on their property that was verified not to be registering their consumption. The report stated the customer was notified of the problem and will credit their account for the incorrect consumption and meter readings, and their due date will be extended to October 13.
One customer, Don Barningham, who addressed the council on September 5, had complained of a very high bill for August 2017. The report states that a test has been scheduled to verify the accuracy of the meter.
Kevin Keller, the city’s public information officer, explained where the city staff gets the list of issues to address.
“The list of concerns in the Information Item is both from issues reported prior to September 19, as well as some brought to the attention of Ryan (Haverlah) and Jason Bethke on Sept. 19 during the one-on-one meetings,” Keller said. “The list is not all inclusive. However, it breaks down some recent concerns expressed by citizens.”
Keller said the Information Item reports will be released weekly on the city’s website at: http://www.copperascovetx.gov/city_council/information_items.
As far as the communication between FATHOM reps and the city staff goes, Keller said the city has a standing phone conference every Tuesday to discuss weekly happenings.