The Press Newspaper

Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

The Press Newspaper

Share

Oregon City Council last month approved an agreement with Smartbill Ltd., of Hebron, Ohio, to provide third party billing services to improve the printing and mailing of city water and sewer bills.

The service will provide electronic billing for customers upon request, provide paper billing in envelopes compared to the current postcard format, and improve access to accounts online, among other benefits.

It will also improve the use of city time for other tasks by the Utility Billing Department.

Over the past several years, many water and sewer customers have requested more up to date billing services, such as online account viewing, electronic billing, and more utility information. In addition, the post office has wanted the utility department to discontinue the postcard size water bills for some time due to problems they cause.

“We’ve had problems with them getting stuck in their sorting machine, getting lost in magazines, and sticking together,” said Public Service Director Paul Roman. “In the past several years, we’ve had a lot of customers asking for electronic billing or online viewing to see their accounts. We started looking at various companies that could provide this.”

Smartbill Ltd. could easily take data and provide online viewing as well as electronic billing, said Roman.

The service will also include billing in 8 1/2” by 11” sized envelopes with return envelopes for customers that will replace postcard billing.

Other benefits to the customer, according to Annette Hager, supervisor of utility billing, include:

• More messages on the bill, which would be on 8 ½” by 11” paper;

• Consumer confidence reports can be included with bills;

• Seven inserts can be included with bills at no additional costs;

• Return envelopes will be included;

• Easy to understand bills with explanation codes;

• History graph for quarterly comparisons.

The service would include increased postage for customers wanting to be billed via the weightier 8 ½” by 11” sized envelopes. But savings in postage could be realized if the customer opts to accesses their bills online, said Roman.

“In addition to the services, replacing our current post card billing systems will save much time spent in office printing, bursting, and sorting water bills for pick up by Mail It,” stated Hager in a memo. “This time can be better spent on finding, correcting and contacting the customers with problems we find on the MVRS (meter reading software) reports to better serve the customers.”

Roman said the city could save money by reducing the amount of overtime pay in the department.

“Our clerks can do additional work they normally would put off to overtime because of trying to meet our set schedule. That hopefully would disappear as well,” he said.

The estimated cost of printing and mailing water and sewer bills inhouse is $21,071.39 per year versus Smartbill at $19,612.06 per year.

Councilman James Seaman asked whether employees would lost their jobs due to third party billing.

“We’re not cutting back any employees, are we? I’m not out to cut jobs. I don’t want to see this as a way of pushing people out of work,” said Seaman.

“There’s still much needed work that needs to be done. But there is the hope that some of the overtime will be reduced,” said Roman. “I’m very conscientious of that. But at the same time, you definitely have many requests to go to electronic billing and online viewing. And you do have requests from the post office to stop using the postcard. We’re not forced into it yet, but I think it’s worth doing now when customers are looking for it.”

Other area communities with Smartbill Ltd. Include Northwest Water and Sewer District, City of Sylvania Division of Utilities, Port Clinton Water Works, Bowling Green Municipal Utilities, Oak Harbor Utilities, and Ottawa County Sanitary Engineering.

“All gave Oregon good reviews of Smartbill,” said Roman.

“We really feel good about this,” said City Administrator Mike Beazley. “It will be easier for folks paying their bill, easier for them to manage and understand what they owe, to get information in a timely fashion. It moves us into modern times.”

 

 

politicalClimate

Are you concerned that the current political climate will cause violence?
1072931365 [{"id":"289","title":"Yes, I'm afraid of assassinations","votes":"6","pct":60,"type":"x","order":"1","resources":[]},{"id":"290","title":"Yes, we need to tone down emotions","votes":"3","pct":30,"type":"x","order":"2","resources":[]},{"id":"291","title":"No, we have been divided before","votes":"1","pct":10,"type":"x","order":"3","resources":[]}] ["#194e84","#3b6b9c","#1f242a","#37414a","#60bb22","#f2babb"] sbar 160 160 /component/communitypolls/vote/105-politicalclimate No answer selected. Please try again. Thank you for your vote. Answers Votes ...