United Water to still rely on Alpena Power for billing

ALPENA – When the City of Alpena extended its contract with United Water before the new water meters were installed in city resident homes, it was with the understanding that once done the billing charge the contractor charges the city to mail bills would be eliminated. That will not be the case, at least for the near future, as a software snafu has caused United Water to have to continue to rely on Alpena Power to control billing.

At Monday’s Alpena Municipal Council meeting the council voted to amend United Water’s contract and adjust the billing fee. CityEngineer Rich Sullenger said the cost of data conversion and billing procedures led to the decision to continue use of Alpena Power’s computer system for billing and data storage. The city paid $1,583 for billing services, but it has been lowered to $583 per month.

“We were originally going to eliminate this charge completely with the new meters that went in because of the billing software we were using in conjunction with Alpena Power and the cost of converting the data. We didn’t think it was a prudent path to follow,” Sullenger said. “We will continue to use Alpena Power’s computer and it will do all of the bill generation, that then goes back to United Water. Eventually we do want to change over to a different billing software, but with all the changes going on with the system and the new meters, we didn’t think it was the time to so it yet.”

In other business:

* the council voted 5-0 to enter into a scope of service agreement with Target Alpena. The city budgeted $40,000 to help fund Target and promote economic development within the city.

* the city voted to purchase a new phone system with Alpena County for $65,936. The city’s phone system is in need of an upgrade and by teaming up with Alpena County to integrate one system it is cost effective than purchasing a system on it own.

* the council approved the payments of $746,957 in bills.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review … at www.thealpenanews.com