published Friday, February 8th, 2013

Company nixes some fees on Chattanooga area sewer bills


by Cliff Hightower
The wastewater treatment plant for Chattanooga is located at Moccasin Bend.
The wastewater treatment plant for Chattanooga is located at Moccasin Bend.
Photo by Dan Henry.

SEWER BILL CHANGES

• No $3 fee for using echeck

• No $3 fee per month for recurring payments via echeck

• Due date is 15 days from the date the bill is mailed

Source: Chattanooga

The company handling the processing of sewer bills for Chattanooga, Rossville and the Hamilton County Water and Wastewater Treatment Authority has made some concessions with pricing.

A news release sent out by Chattanooga said customers won't be billed a $3 fee for echecks or a $3-per-month fee for recurring echecks. However, a variety of other processing fees will remain.

Chattanooga Public Works Administrator Steve Leach said Chattanooga, Rossville and Hamilton County WWTA spoke with a consulting firm that acted as a go-between with California-based Enco Utility Services, the company providing the billing services.

"I think we achieved what we wanted to do," Leach said.

The release also states Enco will make sure customers have 15 days from the time the bill is mailed to make their payments.

WWTA Chairman Ed Watt and Chris Clem, the agency's attorney, could not be reached for comment Thursday. Nor could Enco Utility Services.

The controversy surfaced over the last two weeks as Tennessee American Water customers began receiving their stand-alone sewer bills. Tennessee American officials announced last year they would drop their longtime practice of billing customers for city sewer service on their water bills.

Chattanooga and the other providers contracted with Enco to do sewer billing for Tennessee American customers.

When the bills started arriving, many customers complained that the due date was just a few days later and they couldn't make the payment before incurring late fees. Customers also complained about processing fees, such as a $3 fee for paying by phone or online. Customers who pay bills through one outlets such as Walmart also will have to pay processing fees.

There is no cost for payment by mail using a check or money order.

Leach said the changes will cost the city nothing.

"We weren't going to absorb the costs that they had," he said. "So the assumption is Enco will absorb it."

Councilman Manny Rico, chairman of the city's Public Works Committee, said he knows no one likes change.

"We're on a learning curve here," he said. "We didn't know what was going to happen and we're getting the bugs out."

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