Cole is picturing a committee of five to seven community members to work alongside city staff, one or two council members, himself and consulting company Raftelis Consulting Group to provide input on the utility billing process, he said. The members would ideally have some expertise in the topic as well, he said.
In February, city staff informed council that the city was seeing a 60-day gap between reading water meters and sending out bills, which had caused the city to fall behind in collecting $6 million in payments. Some citizens have since asked for more transparency from the city.
“My thought is: It’s one of the first steps of helping to rebuild the trust of the city,” Council Member Gary Moore said. “It doesn’t seem like everything is going on behind closed doors if we have an ad hoc committee that is going to be there.”
Since the incident, the city has hired new utility billing management, enlisted Raftelis to complete a formal review of the system and implemented the 32/30 plan to collect the money that has yet to be billed.
“I think this is a great opportunity for us to come through and look at this and, hopefully, review from start to finish where we are now,” Council Member Woody Owens said. “To get a committee and have the buy-in from the city will do two things: It will help us understand where we are at and [help us] get some information out there.”
The members of the group will be chosen by the mayor and council, as both expressed a desire for the group to be put together quickly so that it could work alongside Raftelis, which will submit its final report on the utility billing process and system review at the Jan. 25 council meeting, according to agenda documents.