09 February 2010

city of alexandria, la struggling to deliver utility bills timely

link to audio page

it all began this morning around 7:43 am thats when a frustrated caller phoned into the ksyl talk back preshow with bob and steve -- going on about getting the mayor on in there to explain why his utility bill is tardy. it seems that he has already phoned the city four times for the whereabouts of his bill and got called stupid or something.

the problem is that the city is supposed to read meters regularly and send a monthly bill. the bill should be for 30 days. when the city is late reading meters they just stick their citizens for the extra days. so say its 35 days or 40 or so between meter readings you get jammed with having to pay all those extra days -- so depending on whats happening in the city your utility bill can have huge swings.

what they should do is if its over thirty days to cut the bill off at the thirtieth day and carry over the balance onto the next bill.

26,000 customers
cant the city reprogram their meter reading machines and billing software to cut off a bill at thirty days and carry the balance onto the next bill so that the bills always come based on thirty days? mayor roy in his interview said that with utilities instead of paying in advance "you consume first and then you have to pay."

a little while later, david crutchfield the city of alexandria finance director phoned in to give out his office number (318) 449-5091 for anyone having a problem with their bill to phone him and he would take care of it.

mr. crutchfield explained that the city doesnt mail anything away it transfers an electronic file containing the utility bills ("just like an email") to a company in monroe where they are printed and mailed out. then payments are mailed to a private company in new orleans.

mr. crutchfield believes that tardy utility bills arent a widespread problem and what you got is one person phoning in to complain. mr. crutchfield does admit that the city got behind in reading the meters due to the bad weather but the city is caught up and "back on track." "we were a few days behind," he said.

the city does have a plan to spread the bill payments out over time. how quaint.

the next utility bill caller was "angel" who said that the utility bill "problem" was occurring more than mr. crutchfield was aware of. as of today (the 9th) her utility bill hadnt arrived. angel said that her bill usually comes at the last of the month and wonders how many extra days it will have on it this time. angel wrote down mr. crutchfield's phone number and planned to ring him up.

the next caller didnt identify herself but said that late bills are "true" her bill is late as well; like angels arriving usually at the end of the month and that "they are not telling how many people havent received their bill" this is all after she had spoken with a real nice lady in billing who told her that her bill would be out last tuesday and she would receive it friday. however here it is tuesday again and still no bill. bob madison said to remember that its going to have a lot of days on it.

the next caller said that when your bill is late to look at your previous bill and call the number on it. find out how much your bill is and then if the bill doesnt come on the day that it should to call mr. crutchfield. he said that his last bill was for 37 days.

the last ten minutes was mayor roy -- steve coco talks about that here.