Water Shutoff Scammers Visiting Elkins Residences

Elkins, W. Va., June 8, 2021: City of Elkins is warning of a scam targeting local residents. The scam involves imposters knocking on doors, claiming to represent the city’s water utility, and demanding immediate in-person payment to avoid shutoffs. The city has received reports of two such incidents, and police are investigating.

Dan Stemple, a clerk in the city’s Utility Billing Department, says that city employees will never contact residents this way.

“If your account is overdue, you’ll receive a notice in the mail, then an automated phone call,” he explains. “If we don’t have your phone number, we’ll leave a tag on the front door of the property. No city employees ever visit you in person or call you to demand payment.”

If city employees do need to visit a property, such as to access a water meter or perform other work, they will be easily identifiable.

“Any city employees doing that kind of work would be in uniform and driving a clearly marked city vehicle,” says Stemple. “If you have the slightest concern about whether you are talking to a genuine city employee, you can also call to doublecheck.”

If you are contacted by anyone asking for money on behalf of the city, please call 911. To ask questions about this or any other utilities-related matter, please contact the Utility Billing Department:

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Read this on our blog: www.cityofelkinswv.com/city-blog.

Some Elkins Water Customers May See Higher Bills

Accounts with past estimated usage are most likely to see increases

Elkins, W. Va., May 21, 2021: Water meters are being replaced throughout Elkins, and some customers may see higher bills as a result. This is not because of a rate increase or inaccurate meters but because certain customers’ bills were being estimated, and their actual water usage has increased in the meantime.

City of Elkins uses remote-read water meters. Instead of needing to be read manually by city personnel, these meters transmit reading data (i.e., how much water has been used) to be collected by a roving vehicle as it passes each of the city’s approximately 4,400 water-customer locations.

Water meters are being replaced for all 4,400 City of Elkins water customers because they are out of warranty, and their data transmitters were beginning to fail. Approximately half have been replaced already.

When meters stop transmitting, City of Elkins water bills are based on estimated readings. Estimated readings are the average of the most recent 12 months’ bills.

Customers who were receiving estimated bills might see increases once their meter has been replaced and their actual usage is once again being received by the city’s Utility Billing department.

When water bills increase after meter replacement, the usual reason is that water usage was previously being estimated, and it rose during the period of estimation. Such increases could result from the household adding new members or appliances. It could also result from undetected leaks that developed during the period of estimation.

These increased charges do not result from recapturing the entire under-billed amount, which the city does not do. Instead, with the new meters in place, accounts that were being estimated are now being billed based on actual usage data each period. Accounts whose usage increased during the period of estimation will therefore see higher bills going forward.

Paper bills for accounts being estimated indicate this by showing an “e” next to the usage amount. Electronic bills do not indicate whether an account’s charges are being estimated, but customers can call Utility Billing to find out. The W. Va. Public Service Commission (PSC), which regulates water and other utilities in this state, does not specify how long utilities may use estimated readings.

City of Elkins water customers with questions about their bills or who wish to inquire about setting up a payment plan are encouraged to contact Utility Billing.

Additional information and answers to frequently asked questions about the water meter replacement project may be found here: www.bit.ly/ElkinsWaterMeters

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Paperless Billing Could Save City $30,000 a Year

Online bill payment reduces errors, frees time for value-added work

Elkins, W. Va., March 26, 2021: Significant savings and efficiency improvements could be achieved if city utility customers opted for paperless billing and paid those bills online or by phone, a City of Elkins official announced today.

Most of the city’s utility customers still receive paper bills and remit payments using paper checks, incurring significant costs and processing time, according to Elkins City Treasurer Tracy Judy.

“Over the last three fiscal years, the cost of sending out utility and fire-fee bills averaged $29,296 annually for postage alone,” says Tracy Judy, the Elkins city treasurer. “That’s not counting the costs of paper, ink, equipment, and labor for doing the printing and mailing. I know we probably won’t ever get to 100-percent paperless billing, but it would be great to save even half of the money we’re currently spending on paper billing.”

Similarly, if more people paid bills online or by phone, Treasurer’s Department personnel could be reassigned from processing paper checks to more value-added work.

“Around 60 percent of our customers are still paying by check, so my staff is spending at least 15 workhours a week slitting envelopes, sorting checks, and performing manual data entry,” said Judy.

In addition to the high cost, this heavy reliance on paper bills and check payments has significant downsides for the city and its customers.

“The more manual data entry we perform, the higher the chance of errors, and that’s reduced with online payments,” she says. “Also, those fifteen hours a week we spend processing payments are fifteen hours we can’t spend making sure all businesses in town are paying their B&O taxes, contacting customers about payment discrepancies, and tracking down missing information on filed paperwork. It’s also fifteen hours we can’t spend on planning, professional education, and cross-training. Obviously, there is only so much we can fit into an extra 15 hours a week, but I would love to be doing at least some of these other things instead of opening envelopes.”

Requesting paperless billing is as easy as contacting Treasurer’s Department staff by phone or email to supply an email address.

To make online payments, customers must first take just a few minutes to set up an account with PSN, the city’s online payments contractor. Payments can be made via credit card or from checking or savings accounts. PSN uses strong encryption and security protocols to protect users’ financial information. There is no charge for customers to use this service, which may be accessed here: www.bit.ly/ElkinsBills.

After setting up a PSN account, customers can activate autopay and never miss a payment, a feature that is especially helpful given current U.S. mail slowdowns.

“With all of my own bills, I always use autopay whenever possible,” says Judy. “The mail has been a lot slower lately, but utility payments are due on time even if the bill is delayed. With autopay turned on, customers can be sure their payment will be received before the penalty date, avoiding late fees and cutoffs.”

Customers who don’t want to use autopay have the option of logging on to pay each bill individually, sending payment immediately or scheduling it for later. On the PSN platform, customers can also view current and past bills and review payment history.

Customers who prefer to pay by phone can call 877-885-7968 and make payments either through an automated phone system or by speaking with a PSN call-center representative.

Judy says that maximizing paperless billing and online or pay-by-phone payments is in the best interests of city residents, businesses, and other community stakeholders.

“When I talk about wanting to save 15 hours a week that we’re currently using to process checks, I know some people may see this as complaining because processing checks is part of our job,” she says. “I see our job as saving taxpayer money wherever we can and providing maximum value for the money that is spent. That’s why I want to see more customers adopting paperless billing and paying bills online or by phone.”

To request paperless billing or for help with questions about paying bills online or by phone, contact the Treasurer’s Department.

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Elkins Resuming Utilities Shutoffs August 5

Shutoffs Had Been Suspended Since March

Elkins, W. Va., July 29, 2020: City of Elkins water and sewer utilities will recommence shutting off service for unpaid bills starting Wednesday, August 5, officials announced today. The city suspended shutoffs in March on the recommendation of the West Virginia Public Service Commission (PSC). (more…)

How to Pay Utility Bills and Municipal Court Fines During City Hall Closure

Elkins City Hall remains closed to the public in accordance with federal recommendations to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

However, all city departments are operating under modified procedures.

To pay utility bills, there are two options: (more…)

“Social Distancing” Bill Payment Options

In response to the coronavirus (covid-19) outbreak, one strategy recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is “social distancing,” or avoiding unnecessary contact with other people.

Instead of paying your utility bill in person, keep in mind that we offer online bill payment (at no additional charge).

You can also drop your payment in the box behind city hall.

 

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