COPPERAS COVE — The biggest revelation at Tuesday evening’s special meeting of the Copperas Cove City Council was that Fathom won’t be going out of business on Nov. 30 after all.
City Manager Ryan Haverlah told council members near the beginning of the nearly one-hour meeting that the city's third-party water billing contractor will continue offering billing and payment services to all its customers through Dec. 9. Haverlah said third-party vendors had injected some capital into Fathom to help the company extend the period before it goes out of business.
The decision means customers will continue to receive bills through Fathom and can continue to pay through the company’s online customer portal until that date. Haverlah has encouraged water customers to turn off the autopay function on Fathom’s portal, but said manual payments through the portal should be okay through Dec. 9.
Haverlah said there was the possibility that Fathom could extend that window through Dec. 17, but said there was no firm commitment by the company to continue operations until that date.
Haverlah and Public Works Director Scott Osburn updated the council on the progress city staff has made toward returning water billing to the oversight of the Utility Administration department.
Among the news Haverlah and Osburn shared with the council:
- The city has interviewed several customer service representative candidates for the expanded department and expects to have new employees in place by Dec. 2. The city is still looking for a billing technician for the department.
- The city could avoid a long competitive billing process by going with billing software provider Incode. Incode provided software services for water billing to the city before the switch to Fathom. Incode is part of a purchasing co-op and, under state law, the city would not have to go through a sealed bid process. Haverlah also outlined other advantages to using Incode, such as easy integration with the city’s current financial system.
- Water Smart, the third-party vendor that provides the online customer portal for Fathom, is offering to keep that portal active at no cost after Fathom goes out of business. That would allow customers to still pay their accounts online, though no bills can be issued until the city has a billing software package in place.
- Meanwhile, the city is expanding the Utility Administration office in City Hall and has found it will cost significantly less than the original $10,000 estimate. But parking will remain a problem, and the city is exploring ways of allowing staff to park off site so that water customers can use the available spaces in the City Hall parking lot. Renovation of the old Utility Administration building will have to go through a competitive bidding process before any work can begin.
The City Council authorized Haverlah to begin talks with Incode on a possible contract to provide billing software. The council also directed Haverlah to continue discussions with Water Smart about using their customer portal after Fathom goes out of business.
Water customers are being encouraged to continue paying their bills while the city puts a new billing system into place. Water payments will be accepted at the Utility Administration office in City Hall or by mail at the new address for payments, P.O. Drawer 1419, Copperas Cove, TX 76522. Bills can be paid by check, cash or credit card at this time. Customers will be given a printed receipt which they are encouraged to hold onto while the city irons out the billing situation.
The city will be placing a drop box for payments at City Hall, and is exploring placing a 24-hour drop box at the police station.
The City Council will meet again next Tuesday.