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MailTribune.com
  • Medford considers splitting utility bills in two

    Water and Public Works departments would bill separately under plan to be discussed at study session next week
  • MEDFORD — City residents may soon receive two utility bills every month rather than the current combined bill from the Medford Water Commission that includes fees for water, sewers, streets and storm drains.
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  • MEDFORD — City residents may soon receive two utility bills every month rather than the current combined bill from the Medford Water Commission that includes fees for water, sewers, streets and storm drains.
    The Public Works Department is considering generating a separate bill just for the services the city provides.
    The issue will be discussed at a joint study session of the City Council and the Medford Water Commission at noon Thursday in the Medford Room in City Hall, 411 W. Eighth St.
    "The question is should we do our own or stick with them?" said Cory Crebbin, the city's public works director.
    He said it's not clear to his department that new Water Commission software will handle complicated billing methods generated by the city.
    For example, the city has been looking for a way to capture street fees from drive-through coffee shops, which pay less than a single-family house but generate far more traffic.
    In addition, the city sometimes needs to make changes in its billing that might be easier to handle if it had its own software.
    "We'd have greater ability to react," Crebbin said.
    City pays the Water Commission $450,000 annually to process its billing. The city also faces added costs for software improvements to the new Water Commission billing program.
    Larry Rains, manager of the Water Commission, said his agency has been installing a new computer management system that includes a new billing feature. The cost of the system, which also keeps track of engineering and other systems at the Water Commission, is about $2 million.
    The commission has asked the city to share in some of the costs if the city still plans to collect its fees through the new software. Or the city could opt out of the joint billing.
    "If that came to pass, you would get two different bills," Rains said.
    He said the average water bill is in the $12 range, while fees charged by the city are between $30 and $40.
    Rains said most consumers would probably prefer having just one bill.
    He said it would be somewhat easier for the Water Commission to have a smaller, easier-to-understand water bill. But, Rains said, the city currently shares in the cost of the Water Commission billing program, helping to keep the commission's expenses lower.
    "We're willing to keep them on board," Rains said. "If they want to do it on their own, that's fine, too."
    Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or email dmann@mailtribune.com.
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