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Elkhorn ponders emailing utility bills

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Darryl Enriquez
March 29, 2011
— City officials are looking into the possibility of emailing utility bills to customers rather than mailing them out.

The city council's Finance and Judicial Committee on Monday heard a presentation from city Finance Director Mary Hinske about the potential savings email presents and the efficiency it provides residents who would decide to use it.


Email billing would be optional and customers would have to enroll to take advantage of the service. Those who do not enroll would continue to receive bills through the postal service and use traditional methods of making payments.


Committee members generally were in favor of providing an Internet payment method for utility bills. They wanted more information from Hinske on whether the service should be run by workers at city hall or contracted to a private firm.


If city hall ran email billing, the set-up would cost $5,000 in implementation and training, Hinske said. Maintaining the program would cost $1,100 annually, she said.


Included in the $5,000 would be two computer programs to run email billing, she said.


Hinske talked with one electronic billing company that offered a quote of $809 in annual costs, plus service fees to customers.


Under the city hall proposal, savings would be realized by using less preprinted paper, mail envelopes and postage. Those savings probably also can be applied to if the service was conducted by a private firm.


A sizeable savings likely would be realized if the 75 large commercial and industrial utility users would enroll in email billing, Hinske said. It costs the city $1,125 annually to mail paper bills each month to those 75 customers at $1.25 each, she said.


Committee member Scott McClory said that over a period of time the city would save enough money to recover start up costs and pay annual maintenance fees. City Administrator Sam Tapson said recovery could be as soon as five years.


"Why not go for it?" McClory asked.


Committee members talked about doing a cost free marketing analysis. Suggestions included conducting surveys outside grocery stores and asking voters at the polls if they would use email billing.


"It would be a benefit over the long run," committee member Kim DeHaan said.


The committee agreed that other communities already are offering the service and young professionals moving into Elkhorn likely would want the online service.



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