Wa­ter bills cost city $130,000 in postage

North Bay ex­am­ines ways to in­crease cus­tomers on pa­per­less billing

North Bay Nugget - - NEWS - GORD YOUNG

The city cur­rently spends nearly $130,000 an­nu­ally on postage within its wa­ter and sewer de­part­ment be­cause only about a third of its 16,000 users have signed up for pa­per­less billing.

City politi­cians, how­ever, hope to re­duce that cost by en­cour­ag­ing more users to sign up. Ex­actly how to go about do­ing that was a key topic of dis­cus­sion dur­ing a wa­ter and sewer op­er­at­ing bud­get meet­ing this week.

Some coun­cil mem­bers suggested the city make the move to tran­si­tion all wa­ter users to pa­per­less e-bills and im­ple­ment a small postage fee – like many banks and util­i­ties do – for those who choose to con­tinue re­ceiv­ing bills in the mail.

But con­cerns were raised about im­pos­ing a fee on users who may not have ac­cess to the In­ter­net or are not com­puter lit­er­ate, par­tic­u­lar­ity in light of an ag­ing pop­u­la­tion.

Other mem­bers were more sup­port­ive of in­creas­ing an ex­ist­ing re­bate for those who go pa­per­less to $12, up from $5, in or­der to be more rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the cost of pur­chas­ing stamps for a year’s worth of monthly bills.

Coun­cil, how­ever, heard that an in­crease to the re­bate would re­quire adding funds to what’s al­ready in­cluded in the op­er­at­ing bud­get.

Mov­ing away from monthly billing to quar­terly pay­ments in or­der to help cut costs was also suggested. But most mem­bers opted against the move due to con­cerns some res­i­dents may have more dif­fi­culty bud­get­ing for fewer, but larger, pay­ments.

There also were con­cerns for users who do not mon­i­tor their usage on­line that house­hold leaks could go un­de­tected for longer pe­ri­ods.

Ul­ti­mately, mem­bers seemed to agree that postage should at least be bro­ken out as a line item on wa­ter bills to help make users aware of the cost. And staff, which has al­ready im­ple­mented a num­ber of ini­tia­tives, will be look­ing for new meth­ods of com­mu­ni­cat­ing the op­tion of go­ing pa­per­less.

Visit https://se­cure.city­ofnorth­bay.ca/mynorth­bay/ to regis­ter on the city es­er­vices Por­tal and sign up for pa­per­less billing.

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