Perry water bills soon to come in envelopes like all others

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The Perry Water Works will begin issuing a new billing form, similar to forms sent by other utility companies. The new bills will start in September or October.

Customers of the Perry Water Works will see the last postcard billings in September or October, according to action taken Thursday by the Perry Water Works Board of Trustees.
Customers of the Perry Water Works will see their last postcard billings in September or October.

The familiar, monthly red-and-blue postcard bill from the Perry Water Works will be replaced this fall by a new billing form arriving in an envelope and including a return envelope for payment.

The new form will be similar to billing forms issued by other utilities, such as the gas, electricity, telephone and cable television companies, with both billing and return envelopes featuring glassine windows through which the addressee’s name will be visible.

The Perry Water Works Board of Trustees voted Thursday to enter into a three-year contract with Mail Services, an automated mail processing company in Urbandale. The company handles 9 million pieces of mail annually, according to Mail Services Account Executive Todd Clausen.

The cost for the mailing service will be 54.7 cents per item, according to Clausen, which includes the cost of postage. The per-item cost is only slightly higher than what Perry’s water utility now pays to process its own bills, according to Perry Water Works Accounting and Billing Manager Pamela Ballard.

The new billing forms will not cause a rise in water bills, said Perry Water Works Superintendent Hank Schmidt. Benefits of the envelope form of billing include permitting additional enclosures to be added, such as notices from the city and the annual water-quality report, Schmidt said. The privacy of water consumers will also gain from the change, he said.

Thursday’s meeting also included a trustees’ tour of the recently completed lime sludge lagoon outfall decant project. As part of the Perry Water Works water treatment process, raw water pumped from the city’s wells is softened by the addition of lime. The lime particles then gradually settle and are drawn off in the form of lime sludge, which is piped to two lagoons on Perry’s south side near the wastewater treatment plant.

The lime further settles in the lagoons, and the clear, potable water remaining on top, called the supernatant, was for many years discharged directly into the Raccoon River, according to Schmidt. He said recent changes in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s standards for the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit now prohibit the direct discharge of Perry’s supernatant because its Ph slightly exceeds NPDES limits.

In order to protect the environmental integrity of the Raccoon River ecosystem, the Perry Water Works now decants the supernatant from the lime sludge lagoons and into a nearby stormwater retention pond operated by the Perry Wastewater Treatment Plant. The water is eventually discharged into the river with the city’s treated wastewater.

The lime sludge lagoon outfall decant project went online June 28, with a cost to the Perry Water Works of about $420,000, Schmidt said. The project was paid for out of the budget for capital improvements and, like the new billing forms, did not cause an increase in customers’ bills.

Ames-based J&K Contracting installed the system of valves and pump that moves the supernatant from the lime lagoons to the retention pond.

“We’re one of the few water utilities in the state to have this kind of modern technology,” Schmidt said as he explained the system to Perry Water Works Trustee Marcus Carris, the only board member able to take Thursday’s tour.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Since you are farming out the billing statements at a higher cost, are you eliminating that person’s position to offset the increase?

    • Good question. Staff time reduction is not the primary reason for this change. The additional cost for using this service to mail out our bills in a letter format versus the current method of printing and mailing postcards ourselves is about 4 to 5 cents per bill per month. Staff time saved is estimated at about 8 to 10 hours per month, and these saved hours will be put to good use. The Perry Water Works is operating at a historically low staff level of nine employees. This is down from 10 full-time employees in 2013 and as many as 15 employees at one time. The benefits of this change in billing format are many: increased privacy, an opportunity to include a newsletter from the city, return envelopes included, additional space on bill allowing for more information and hopefully an easier to understand bill. Thanks for your interest. — Hank Schmidt, Perry Water Works Superintendent

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