The Le Sueur City Council moved forward in discussions to swap out the city’s current water utility billing software.
The move is being proposed based on unexplained inconsistencies in the Sewer Utility Fund and consumers not being billed what they should be. While the root of these inconsistencies is unknown, Kruggel believes leaks can be ruled out as the primary cause.
“We’ve conducted numerous leak studies internally to try to find these and we found a few residential services that had leaks on them,” said Kruggel. “But that hasn’t addressed the larger 22% gap. We’ve looked at it; we’ve come to the determination that it's something in utility billing, likely either with the way meters are set up or with the way that they’re recognized when they’re read. We’ve run into multiple multiplier issues between the meters.”
Finance Director Zach Doud explained why the city’s current utility billing software might be to blame.
”How the overall system works is everything is set up on the back end of things; you can’t really see how things are calculated,” said Doud. “If you change something in the backside, it doesn’t just change one thing, it changes everything that’s linked to it. If we change one thing, the multiplier on the meter will still be linked to this code, and then we change it to fix this one, and then we mess another one up … and that messes up something else, and then we find in the next month, we have to fix it again.”
Doud believes that if the new AMI and NSIC billing software is implemented, these issues will be resolved.
“Reports are much easier. We’re able to see the billing much quicker than in the Tyler system which is not made for us. It’s for a generic city that has water and sewer and doesn’t have all this other stuff that we have going on in Le Sueur,” said Doud. “I’m very confident in the new software in helping us out and overall I hope it helps out everybody so we can lower those rates to get them back to where we want them to be and not just raise them because our revenues keep going down and we don’t have an answer why.”
Plans are currently being discussed for water meters to swapped out in August or September. This would be done by a third-party vendor and consumers would schedule a time to swap out their meters by contacting the vendor or the city.
The AMI system would be implemented by the end of the year and the NISC system would be implemented by February 1st at the latest.
“Once the meters are actually installed, the customer will have the ability to go into the meter portal and look at and set up alerts for anomalies,” said Kruggel. “So you can say ‘Well, my normal bill is $50 a month for water, once I hit that $50 mark I want an alert sent to me to my phone to my email.’ They can even set up phone calls so it calls you. You can set that up for each of the utility segments we have, water, wastewater, electric and storm water. Staff will be able to help any customers who want that setup.”
“The software will allow us to do budget billing as well,” said Kruggel. “Let’s say you have an average utility bill that’s $200 a month and $24,000 a year. We can set it up in the system so that you get $200 a month where maybe you don’t use as much in the summer as you do in the winter. There will be a lot more options and we’ll be as helpful as we can be to get customers interested in it up to speed.”
In the meantime, Kruggel offers several tips for catching leaks.
“Listen for your toilet running. Listen for faucets dripping. Listen for outdoor irrigation running when you don’t have it on. Those are the major things that we see that happen,” said Kruggel. “You can put dye tablets in your toilets and see if that dye tablet leaks into your toilet bowl. If they do, you probably have some leaky seals in your toilet. Those little things can add up pretty quickly.”