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Billing error leads to disconnection notices in July
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MONROE - When Mike Buol, owner of Green County Locker in Monroe, picked up his mail Friday afternoon, he got a shocking surprise - a yellow notice from the city stating his water would be disconnected in 10 days if he didn't pay his bill.

Buol said his business depends on water, and it was too late in the day to reach anyone at the city hall.

He also worried what the situation would do to his good credit score.

"My wife takes care of all the bills," he said. "And she was getting ready to leave on vacation."

As it turns out, Buol wasn't the only water customer surprised with a disconnection notice.

The city sent 900 disconnection notices in July, twice the normal monthly amount, according to Kelly Finkenbinder, director of Public Works.

The notices were actually a quick-fix solution for the city when employees discovered a block of bills didn't get printed, and some bills were printed twice.

The Water Utility discovered many residents and businesses did not receive quarterly bills until after the city utility bills were calculated and sent out June 30. Payment was due July 20.

Employees contacted the billing company and found out some customers received two copies of their bills and others did not receive one at all.

"We were unsure of which ones were unprinted," Finkenbinder said.

By the time the utility discovered the error, it was time to send out its 10-day disconnect notices.

The utility contacted the Public Service Commission, which helped the city decide that the best way to handle the problem was to send out the 10-day notices and suspend the penalty or late charges, and to send out bills to the customers who called to say they had not received a bill.

"Rather than incurring the expense of sending out all the bills again, we decided to send out those 10-day, yellow disconnect notices just to those who didn't pay," Finkenbinder said.

Buol wishes the city would send out monthly water bills.

"Quarterly bills, you tend to lose track of whether you got them," he said.

Buol's quarterly bill is now paid in full, and he had some advice for the city on its decision to send out the disconnect notices.

"Maybe don't send them out on a Friday, or say you're leaving at 4 o'clock," he said.

Mike Kennison, Water Utility supervisor, believes the billing problem happened when the utility moved its billing office from 5th Avenue and 11th Street to City Hall in mid-June.

"The utility apologizes for any inconvenience or embarrassment this might have caused, and we are working on the problem to assure that this does not happen again in the future," Kennison said.

Residents with questions about their water utility bills can call Sandy Menehan at 329-2484.