Cove Council 12-12

Copperas Cove Councilwoman Dianne Campbell, left, asks questions about one of the agreements put before the council as City Manager Ryan Haverlah, second from right, and Public Works Director Scott Osburn, right, wait to answer. The City Council was meeting in special session Thursday night to approve agreements needed to move forward with bringing water billing back under the city’s control.

COPPERAS COVE - The Copperas Cove City Council continues to lay the foundation for bringing water billing services back in-house as their partnership with Fathom comes to an end.

The council gathered for a special meeting Thursday night at the Technology Center in Copperas Cove to discuss the latest developments in the Fathom saga.

City Manager Ryan Haverlah updated council members on what has happened since a special meeting on Nov. 26.

Haverlah reminded the council that all services offered by Fathom will end today (Friday). Beginning Saturday, water customers will have to go through Utility Administration for all customer service issues. Fathom will process its final payments for the city Monday, and will officially end its partnership with Copperas Cove on Tuesday.

Haverlah said Fathom will mail out its final bills to customers today (Friday). Because some of those customers will be getting those bills ahead of when their meters are usually read, they will receive smaller bills than usual. However, the final smart meter reading by Fathom will serve as a starting point for the city when it resumes billing water customers. Customers will be charged the entire amount owed from the last meter reading through the first one taken by the city. Haverlah asked for and received consensus from council members that customers may request payment arrangements if they are unable to pay their bills in full once billing resumes.

During his detailed presentation, Haverlah reviewed steps that have already been taken to move the city toward having full control of its water billing again. That includes hiring more staff for Utility Administration and expanding the department’s work area in City Hall. However, an architect will have to be hired to design the interior of the renovated Utility Administration building, due to the need for a secure wall to separate employees collecting and handling cash from customers making payments.

Haverlah also presented a spreadsheet that totaled the expected costs of the transition. Combining the known one time and recurring costs, the city will wind up over budget in utilities by $80,673 for the year at this point, and more if there are unanticipated costs.

The action items voted on by the council dealt with agreements needed to start the transition toward a billing system maintained by the city.

The council voted 6-0 to accept an agreement with WaterSmart Software, including $7,500 for a set-up fee and $28,296 annually for services. The agreement would allow the city to continue using a customer portal created by WaterSmart for Fathom. Continuing to use the portal will make it easier for customers during and after the transition from Fathom.

The council voted 6-0 to accept an agreement with Tyler Technologies for utility administration services. Tyler Technologies is also known as Incode, the company Copperas Cove used for customer service and billing software before the move to Fathom. The deal includes a one-time set-up fee of $138,790 and an annual cost of $69,814. The money to pay for the agreement would come from the budget already authorized for payment to Fathom during the current fiscal year.

The council also voted 6-0 to approve an agreement with DataProse to print and mail the city’s utility bills. The annual cost, $113,000, will also come from money already designated to be paid to Fathom during the current fiscal year.

At this time, city staffers estimate it will take four to six weeks for Incode to migrate all data from Copperas Cove water customers into the new billing software. The city plans to send all water customers printed information about the transition, billing, payments and other important information now that the agreements have been approved and a timeline is in place.

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