Archive for Friday, October 18, 2013

Lawrence installing new utility billing system; customers urged to look at water bills closely

October 18, 2013


Notice a change in your water bill?

Call the billing office at 832-7878 or email utilitybilling@ The office is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

All 32,000 homes and businesses in Lawrence with city water service are being urged to take notice of a new account number that will show up on their monthly bills.

A smaller number of customers also may notice another number change on their bills — a higher balance due than they expected.

City officials are completing the installation of a new billing system for its Utilities Division and it's producing a variety of changes.

The system is assigning a new account number for every water user that will become effective for bills due after Oct. 31. Officials recommend that customers take notice of the new account number to ensure payments to their accounts are properly credited.

In particular, people who use an electronic bill paying system through their bank or who make an online or telephone payment to the city will need to ensure they are using the new account number when making those payments.

Ed Mullins, who oversees the city's billing process as the city's director of finance, said customers who have signed up for the city's direct deposit option — where the city automatically withdraws the bill's total from a checking or savings account — aren't expected to be affected because the new system has made the necessary changes to those accounts.

Customers also will want to look for unusual past-due amounts or credits on their bills, Mullins said. During the installation of the new system, it was discovered that some accounts may have been improperly billed, he said.

Mullins didn't have an estimate on the number of accounts affected, but he said it's likely that fewer than 100 account holders, typically those with multiple water meters for properties such as apartment complexes or businesses, will notice a change of several dollars or more.

City testing of the billing system revealed that several accounts with multiple water meters were being billed a service charge for one meter, Mullins said. Going forward, the city will start billing for a service charge for each meter. The service charge for a typical water meter is $13 per month, but water meters that are used strictly for irrigation purposes or otherwise don't produce water that drains into the city's sewer system have a reduced charge of $3 per month.

Mullins said any customer who notices a change in their bill's total should call the billing office at 832-7878 or email The office is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

"People may notice a beginning balance on a bill that they didn't expect," Mullins said. "People can call us and talk to us about it. We'll just have to treat it on a case-by-case basis depending on what the specific situation is."

As for the new billing system, Mullins said it replaces a system that is 25 years old and will be more efficient for the billing staff to use.

"We're going from a world where we have to type in numbers to a system where we can use a mouse and have drop down boxes and menus," Mullins said.

The actual look of the bills won't change much, Mullins said, except for customers who receive their bills via email. Those customers will start receiving an actual image of the bill instead of a simple text summary. The emailed bills will include a link to the city's online payment system.

Mullins noted that the new system doesn't change the "convenience fee" the city charges customers who pay online with a credit card. The city still will charge a $3.25 fee to cover the costs it pays to a third-party provider for the credit card service.

Mullins said the cost for the city to acquire the new billing system was negligible. He said the software vendor provided the new system at no charge in exchange for the city entering into a software maintenance contract with the company. Mullins said the maintenance contract was roughly equal to the amount the city was paying for maintenance of the old system.


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