City Makes Changes In
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
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
• 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.”