Missoula Water studies billing reforms to save money

Posted at 9:00 AM, Sep 13, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-13 11:16:19-04

MISSOULA – The managers of Missoula Water believe that customers will like the billing changes they have in store for the near future, with a move to more “direct debit” payments saving the city tens of thousands of dollars a month.

The reforms come just over a year after the city took over the water utility, a year that’s brought a long list of changes and upgrades. Missoula Water says it has spent $3.8 million on replacing water mains, repairing wells and making other equipment changes.

Yet despite all the investments — which were planned in the original takeover plan — Missoula Water is able to forego any rate increase this fall.

Missoula Water managers also told the Missoula City Council they are working to make billing and inspection functions with the stormwater utility, and move to “Version 4” of the billing system, which will allow more customers to take advantage of direct payments.

“And what we’re going to ask when we get onto Version 4, we’re going to ask as many people as we can to go to the direct debit — because it costs us about $11,000 a month to send the bills,” Missoula Water customer service manager Greg Gullickson said.

“And with the direct debit, we can e-bill, and then pull the money directly and there’s no charge for that. There are charges for credit card payments, which in some cases customers pay and in some cases we pay. But the direct debit is the push we really want to make,” he added.

Gullickson says Missoula Water is also working with other departments to see how best to keep the various kinds of accounts, such as property owners and renters, separate in the system.