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City revamps utility bills, adds envelopes

January 06, 1998

City revamps utility bills, adds envelopes

By LAURA ERNDE

Staff Writer

If you get a bill that looks unfamiliar this month, don't throw it away. It could be a Hagerstown utility bill.

The city has revamped the bills it sends to 17,000 City Light customers and 23,000 water/sewer customers.

For the first time, customers will no longer have to find an envelope in which to mail their payments. The new bills include a pre-addressed envelope, so all customers need is a stamp and a check.

"It's something else you don't have to do when you go through the unpleasant task of paying bills," said Finance Director Al Martin.

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The city redesigned the bills based on a survey of 1,000 customers, said Austin Abraham, who coordinated the project for the city.

Gone is the postcard bill that the Light Department used for more than 30 years. Customers complained the postcards were not confidential and often got torn in mail sorting equipment.

The old water and sewer bills were in use for about 20 years.

The new, laser-printed bills should be easier to read, Abraham said. The light bill is yellow and the water/sewer bill is blue.

The new bills give more detailed billing information. For example, those for accounts that are at least a year old include a comparison of utility use from the previous year.

Other information about city services or events now can be included with the bills.

The new bills come at a nominal cost to the city - about 3 cents per bill or roughly $9,000 a year.

The benefit is the bills are faster to process, Abraham said.

Recognizing that change can be difficult, city officials have launched a public education campaign with newspaper ads and a spot on Antietam Cable Channel 6.

Everyone who gets a new bill also will get a pamphlet explaining the changes.

Customers can still choose to pay the bills at City Hall or at most local banks.

Once people get used to the new system, the city may update other billing practices like paying by automatic withdrawal.

"We don't want to do too much at once. We want this to be seamless to our customers," Martin said.

People who have questions about the new bills can call the city's billing and customer service office from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 301-790-4160.

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