City talks new billing

Editor’s Note: In a previous version of this story, published in print and online on Wednesday, June 24, the bid approved by the commissioners was incorrectly identified as the most expensive bid; however, the bid that was approved was actually only the third most expensive. The Herald apologizes for any confusion or inconvenience this may have caused.

HAZARD—After struggling for years with a billing system that was created in the 1980s, the City of Hazard is finally moving toward a 21st Century way of billing its utility customers.

During this month’s Hazard City Commission meeting, commissioners voted unanimously to approve a bid for a new billing system.

Assistant City Manager Amie Bedwell presented the bids, which were taken on May 29, to the commissioners at the meeting. She explained that while her recommendation for which company the city should use was the most expensive, it would be worth it in the long-run.

Bedwell said Springbrook bid the city a one-time fee of $76,800, with a three-year recurring fee of $33,624, making it the highest bid in total.

“We have the money in the bank dedicated to upgrading this system,” City Manager Grady Varney told commissioners.

Varney explained that when the city began the Hazard Water Systems Improvements Project last year, they set aside in the budgeting of the project funds to upgrade the city’s billing system.

“Since this is part of the water system, with the water billing, it made sense to do that,” he said.

Varney added that this is where the funds would be coming from for the first four years, if the commissioners approved moving to Springbrook.

Currently, the city works with an IBM operating system 34, something Varney said is easily 30 years old and doesn’t allow for online bill pay.

Bedwell added that the current system also doesn’t allow for late fees for customers who are behind on bills. This lets customers get sometimes three and four months behind before being penalized.

“The new system will have it automatically programmed into it to administer a late fee,” Bedwell said, adding that it’s not been decided what that fee will be.

The commission voted unanimously to accept the bid from Springbrook, which will allow the project to continue its forward motion. Commissioner Ronnie Bryant was absent from the meeting.

Amelia Holliday can be reached at 606-436-5771, or on Twitter @HazardHerald.

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