McMinnville Water Department has made a change in its billing dates that has affected about half of its customers. Check the due date on your water bill or risk being late.
“We are giving customers until Nov. 1 to get used to their new billing date,” said McMinnville Public Works director Bill Brock, who is also interim director of the Water Department. “If you are one of the customers who is affected by the change, we are waiving the late fee until then.”
The department is going back to the way things used to be.
“About four years ago, we had four sections of the city and we billed one section each week,” said Brock. “I don’t know why, but the decision was made to go from four billing cycles to two. We had two billing cycles and two due dates each month.”
The merge created unforeseen problems for staff when up to 4,000 people began paying their bills at roughly the same time twice a month, says Brock.
“Instead of billing about 1,500 to 2,000 a week, that number doubled. It wasn’t a problem for the billing department, as far as getting out the bills. The problem came with people paying their bills and everyone coming in during a two-week period of the month. Then, you had two weeks of a really slow period.”
The due date change just prior to a weakened economy added a new problem for the city’s lone meter reader, who is tasked with reading meters and shutting off and turning on the water of customers who have their service disconnected for failure to pay.
“Shut-offs and turn-ons increased considerably during the downturn in the economy,” said Brock. “Our meter reader was having a difficult time keeping up with the two billing cycles. When the staff asked me what could be done, I said we could go back to four billing cycles to spread the work load out.”
The change was a decision within the department and not that of the city board. Mayor Jimmy Haley knows first hand how upset some water customers might be.
“I didn’t realize my due date had changed,” said Haley. “I looked at the charge, but not the due date. It would have been nice to have some advanced notice. Look at your bill so you are not late on your payment like me. Sometimes we learn the hard way to be observant and not creatures of habit.”
The waiver until Nov. 1 is only available for customers whose due date has changed. For those not affected, a late payment will result in a late fee charge.