City Makes Changes In Water Dept.
The City of Manhattan utility billing and meter reading operations will be restructured and consolidated under the responsibility of Bernie Hayen, Director of Finance.  Ron R. Fehr, City Manager, announced the internal restructuring today and said it will be effective immediately.
This action comes after the City recently discovered a significant underbilling for Colbert Hills Golf Course and Kansas State University’s Van Zile Residence Hall.  The Colbert Hills mistake occurred when a six-digit water meter dial was only being read as a five-digit water meter.  This resulted in the meter reading to be off by a factor of 10.
The second underbilling occurred when the utilities department discovered a malfunctioning meter at Van Zile Residence Hall.  The City is working with both entities to resolve these issues.
To prevent these types of underbillings from happening again, City Manager Ron Fehr has charged Bernie Hayen to implement corrective steps to ensure accurate water billings and accountability of the utility system.  The first action will result in the water billing and water meter reading personnel to report to the Department of Finance under the direction of Hayen.  Previously, the water billing function was under the direction of Human Resources and the water meter reading personnel were a function of the Utilities Department while the accounting and computer system functions were under the Finance Department.
The second action includes additional accountability reports as a proactive measure to ensure customer accounts are accurate.  These reports will include but not limited to:
• A new monthly management report analyzing and contrasting water production versus water consumption with new classes of users within the utility billing software to better reflect the ranges and types of water consumption.
• A new monthly management report comparing that month’s largest users against their most recent 12-month consumption history.  This report will show any unusual levels, high or low, in consumption that can be investigated.
• A new management report showing a six-month tracking of new industrial, commercial, or university users and comparing this use with similar types of users.  This will serve to benchmark usage and provide a method to safeguard against billing errors.
• Other management reports will be utilized to ensure that misreads or no-reads will be investigated to ensure proper corrective measures are taken.
• Meter reading equipment and computer software will be routinely checked to ensure they are functioning properly along with other quality control and training measures.
Finally, it will be imperative to improve communication and resolve water-related issues quickly when it becomes apparent that the water delivery system is not functioning properly.
Fehr said, “I am deeply disturbed that these water underbillings occurred.  The management team has responded to what has happened and will continue to take proactive measures to ensure that these kind of billing errors do not happen again.”  Fehr added, “We are continuing with a special management audit of the utility billing system.  The public needs to have confidence that its $12 million dollar municipal utility is providing quality water, wastewater and storm water services and is functioning efficiently, effectively and accurately.  I believe this reorganization will provide for that assurance and accountability.”