newduedates

HARRISONBURG — Due to new technology systems, all city residents should expect notices of new public utilities due dates on their bills on Nov. 1, which will be due in December.

Notices will be located at the top right of the bill saying the due date has been changed.

The current software used is from SunGard Pentamation, which Harrisonburg Director of Communications Michael Parks said has been in place for many years.

With the current system and software, depending on the location in the city, city employees can read anywhere from 300 meters a day, if they require individual reading, or up to 4,000 a day if they can be read by driving by and collecting a radio signal.

The new process will allow public utilities employees to read all the meters at once.

The project will be separated into two phases.

In the first phase, crews will set up the new software system, which will help employees to process billing. No specific company has been picked yet for the new software, according to Sherri Barb-Sherman, program manager for Harrisonburg Public Utilities Department.

That change is expected to take place in the start of 2020, Parks said.

The second phase will revolve around adding or replacing a radio device to get a signal to read all the meters at once.

Parks said the city will be replacing radio transmitters that currently exist on some meters and adding additional transmitters to meters that don’t have one.

There’s an average of 16,000 meters, according to Parks, who said that phase will begin next year.

The city will not be replacing the actual meters so that no one will experience a service interruption, Barb-Sherman said.

“What we will be doing is either adding or replacing a radio device that will allow for more efficient reading[s] of the meters,” he said. “That will be done on all meters in the city over time, and we hope to begin doing that next year.”

The new process is called advanced metering infrastructure.

One nearby jurisdiction that uses AMI is the Western Virginia Water Authority in Roanoke.

“We are always looking at what new technology is out there to embrace,” Parks said. “When new technology comes out, it’s our desire to get that technology to make things efficient for us and in turn make it more efficient for customers.”

A while back, there were nine different billing dates. Now, there are four: the 3rd, 7th, 13th and 18th. Soon, there will only be two dates.

The new billing dates will be on the 9th and 22nd of each month depending on what account number residents have, but the changes will not impact the rates customers pay.

“Our public utilities team met with our treasurer’s office and other departments to determine dates that would be less likely to coincide with other common billing dates we see in the city, so this would have less of an impact on customers and on our staff that works to process payments,” Parks said.

Customers who are enrolled in the automatic bank draft payment will continue to have their accounts drafted for payments. Customers do not need to reenroll for the automatic payments.

“The last thing people should have to worry about is when their bill is due so it’s one less thing they will have to worry about now,” Parks said.

For more information or questions, contact the billing division of the Department of Public Utilities at 434-6783 or visit billing division at 2155 Beery Road.

Contact Laine Griffin at 574-6286 or lgriffin@dnronline.com. Follow Laine on Twitter @laine_griffDNR

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