Parkersburg Utility Board seeks solution to billing issues

Looks for outside entity to replace in-house machine

Photo by Evan Bevins Parkersburg Utility Board Manager Eric Bennett speaks during Wednesday’s board meeting.

PARKERSBURG — After three months of equipment malfunctions, the Parkersburg Utility Board is looking to outsource its bill printing and mailing.

For the last two years, the utility has been leasing a folder/inserter to assemble the bills to be mailed out to customers. According to a memo from PUB Manager Eric Bennett, there have been multiple issues with the device but they were usually addressed and the bills sent out complete and on time.

However, December’s bills went out without return envelopes. The issue had not been fixed in time for January’s billing, so the board hired Huntington-based Champion Industries to handle the task, at a cost of $2,371.

“This month the issue was corrected, we thought, but we still ended up sending out at least half of the bills without a return envelope,” Bennett says in the memo.

During Wednesday’s regular meeting, the board voted 5-0 to advertise a request for proposals to perform the printing and mailing of bills and termination notices.

“The cost will likely exceed current equipment and material cost related to this process, but if you factor in the labor cost and possible adverse impacts on operations during a critical time of the month, we believe that it will be worth the additional expense,” Bennett said in the memo.

Having personnel assemble the bills themselves takes them away from normal functions, often during the time that most terminations of service for non-payment are being performed, he said.

Bennett said once proposals are received, the matter will be brought back to the board before a decision is made.

In other business, the PUB voted 5-0 to approve the bid of Ferguson Waterworks to provide 30 fire hydrants for a price of $43,185. Ferguson was the lowest among four bidders.

Bennett said the hydrants will be added to the utility’s inventory, to be used as needed. The utility replaces roughly 20 to 30 hydrants a year, he said.