Officials with Atlantic Municipal Utilities have scheduled a press conference for this afternoon, to clear-up concerns and perhaps some misconceptions about an increase in the fee it bills the City for sending out its sanitary sewer bills. The meeting will take place at 3-p.m in AMU’s basement meeting room. At last night’s City Council meeting, Atlantic Mayor Dave Jones was not happy to hear from City Administrator Doug Harris, that AMU would be jacking up the rate the City pays for sending out its sanitary sewer bills by 10-times the rate it charged through the end of last year. Harris said the increase was retro-active to the beginning of the year.
He said AMU General Manager Steve Tjepkes reported that the AMU Board had approved increasing the billing fee for the City’s sewer bills, which are lumped together with the water and electric. AMU had been charging the City 10-cents per bill per month. That has now increased a dollar per month, which means the City’s annual cost will increase from $3,730, to $37,300. Council Shaun Shouse said that’s a “Hard pill to swallow.” Harris said the increase needs to be included in the budgetary process currently underway at City Hall.
Mayor Jones said he had a “hard time” buying AMU’s explanation for the increase, and that they’ve gone “Over-board.” Jones said AMU’s reason that their cost for the new billing system warrants an increase is no reason to “stick it to the City,” and that they should re-calculate the cost. Harris said AMU estimates if it charges the City one-third of the cost, it would amount to $1.60 per bill. He doubts the City could handle the billing by itself for the dollar increase AMU is passing along for their new billing software system.
He says by using their water meter reading, there are no additional costs associated with labor, but there are costs associated with the accounting process. The billing itself is pretty much automated. Harris said he doesn’t know how much AMU figures into the bill overhead and buildings, but if they allocated everything in thirds, it would amount to about $1.60 per bill. Councilman Dana Halder said it’s his understanding the new software AMU is using will better analyze their costs. Harris said that could result in a savings to the citizens, down the road.
In the interim, the City will either have to pay the extra dollar and increase the sewer rates, send out its own bills, or try and negotiate the fee with AMU for a reduction in costs.