Officials give city water bill 'new look'

By Julie Fann
Star Staff

Who says looks aren't important? Elizabethton city officials have made several cosmetic and method of mailing changes to the city's water bill in an effort to defray costs and build efficiency. Elizabethton financial director, Brad Moffitt, said going to a barcode system instead of a zipcode system will guarantee customers get their water bill in a more timely fashion and also cost the city less.
   "Without having the barcode on the bill, the post office computer system was mis-reading zipcodes and bills weren't always getting to every customer," he said. Moffitt said the new barcode system will also cut costs by saving the city's water/sewer fund extra dollars.
   "Going to a barcode system will save 3 cents on each bill, and we have 120,000 bills, which is a total of $3,600 that the city will save by doing this," he said. Moffitt advises customers not to confuse the bill with 'junk' mail and, by doing so, accidentally throw the bill away. He also encourages them to read the penalties and discounts section on the back of the bill.
   Moffitt explained the new bill includes the date the water meter is read, dates covered, number of gallons used, total water cost, and total sewer cost. "It also includes state and local sales tax. The tax is for water only, not sewer," Moffitt said. The new bill also features a new horizontal perforation instead of a vertical tear.
   Moffitt said the city hopes customers will use the new automatic draft program which allows them to have the amount on their water bill directly removed from their checking or savings account. "That way, they (customers) don't have to come here and pay it," Moffitt said.
   Moffitt said the city decided to create the new water bill in-house rather than using an outside software vendor, which would have cost $10,000. Randy Tadlock, Manager of Information Systems for the city of Elizabethton, designed the new bill himself by adapting the software for the office computer system.
   "It just involved locating a module to fit the new postcard to get the barcode to print on it," Tadlock said. Tadlock said he isn't sure if the city will choose to rely more on its own computer resources for future projects during these uncertain economic times. "It really depends on the technology needed. I had the expertise to make these changes this time. In the future, it will really depend on the complexity of the problem," he said.