Thursday, May 21, 2009 | 4:22 p.m.
Beyond the Sun
Henderson utility customers will soon have the option of going paperless after the City Council unanimously approved a contract to make the Department of Utility Services’ billing system electronic.
Customers can already pay their bills online. The new system will do away with the need for paper statements, which will be able to be delivered via e-mail.
The council on Tuesday approved a three-year contract with local data management firm DIVDAT to create and manage the system for $419,000 a year. The company was selected over three others because of its track record, capabilities and low price, according to a city memo.
DIVDAT will have to design a new billing system that will work in print and online formats, so the electronic billing system isn’t expected to go live until January.
Presently, the city’s utility bills are printed by the Henderson Finance Department. The move to an outside company and electronic system is expected to save the city $73,000 in its first year, Utility Services spokeswoman Kathleen Richards said.
The savings should increase each subsequent year as more customers opt into the electronic system, Richards said.
Customers who still wish to receive paper statements will be able to do so. But 40 percent of the city’s customers pay their utility bills online and the city is hoping at least the same number will choose receiving electronic statements, Richards said.
“E-billing has been one of our most highly requested residential services,” she said.
The electronic billing system will still allow the city to communicate with residents via newsletter and alert them to additional information by providing links in the bill that go back to the city’s Web site, which will allow the city to provide more information to customers, Richards said.
“We will have tools that will allow people to see in greater detail how much water they’re using and better manage their conservation efforts,” she said.
The electronic billing system will also allow for heightened security, she said.
“We’re going to be able to better manage our privacy and security measures,” Richards said. “I know a lot of our customers have expressed the desire to turn off receiving mail because of identity theft occurring from mail being stolen out of people’s mailboxes.”
The paperless plan is also an outgrowth of a citywide green effort. Henderson has hired an energy consulting firm to do energy-saving retrofits in all city buildings and directed all departments to bring their efforts more in line with sustainable principles that the council outlined last year.
Richards said the Department of Utility Services has been evaluating solar energy applications in its operations and the paperless billing is just one of several potential changes that Utility Services may make.
“Using fewer natural resources is a big push in our department,” she said.