The city of Newberry is changing the due date of its utility bills from the 15th of the month to the first of the month.
The change, which affects approximately 3,000 utility customers, will happen over a series of months, said Dallas Lee, Newberry’s assistant city manager and chief financial officer.
Currently it takes 45 days between when customers use the utility and when it is billed for the service, Lee told the City Commission at its regular meeting Monday.
For example, the bills due on May 15 are collecting for March usage. The change will allow the city to bill customers closer to the consumption of the service.
Lee said people often are confused by the amount they are charged because there’s so much time between when they use the service and when they are charged for it.
“People forget what happened two months ago,” Lee said. “We are really doing this to reduce the confusion for our residents—to make our billing process more clear.”
To switch over, the city is moving the due date two or three days each month, starting in June. For example, instead of being due on June 15, the bills will be due on June 13. November will be the first month when the utilities will all be due on the first.
To help customers make the due date switch, the city will be mailing the utility bills earlier so that residents will have the same amount of time to pay their bills. The city also will be offering a grace period and waiving late fees for people who miss the new deadline and pay on the 15th.
The city has installed advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) in nearly 100% of the city, which is allowing Newberry to make this change, Lee said.
The AMI, which is a system of smart meters that can be monitored automatically and remotely, allows the city to collect monthly usage information in one day and turn around a bill for that use shortly after.
Prior to AMI it would take several days over a two-week period for the city to read meters and verify those readings.
AMI also allows customers to monitor their use online in real time and set alerts to prompt them if they go over their usage goals.
“There are many more benefits of AMI still to come [and] giving customers the information at their fingertips is certainly primary, but you’re going to see more and more secondary benefits in the upcoming months and years,” City Manager Mike New told the commission.
Also at the Newberry City Commission on Monday:
- The commission is inviting the public to the first of two public input sessions on the city’s upcoming comprehensive plan update. The first public workshop-style session has been set for March 30 at 6 p.m. at the Mentholee Norfleet Municipal Building, 25420 W. Newberry Road.
“We want to encourage as many folks as can make it to come,” said Bryan Thomas, the city’s director of planning and economic development. “This is definitely their chance to add their participation to what ultimately becomes the vision for Newberry’s growth over the next 20 years.”
The public input sessions are part of the initial phase of the city’s comprehensive plan update process. The ideas from the public will be incorporated in a workshop for the commission later this summer.
- The commission also approved on second reading the rezoning of several city owned parcels from agriculture and single-family residential to public facilities use. Among the pieces of property the city rezoned was the land the city purchased for a new wastewater treatment facility and environmental park, as well as the current wastewater treatment facility and the municipal cemetery.
The city approved the rezoning on first reading in March and sent the changes to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) for review. The DEO and its reviewing agencies cleared the changes.
- Newberry commissioners voted to move forward to hiring a construction management firm for the City Hall building project. A city committee ranked seven applicants and identified Scorpio Construction as the top company followed by Oelrich Construction and Parrish McCall Constructors.
The commission voted unanimously, with Commissioner Tony Mazon absent, to authorize the city manager to negotiate with Scorpio.
The City Hall project hasn’t received full, final approval from the board and Mayor Jordan Marlowe said the project still has “off-ramps.” But the hiring of a construction management firm helps keep the project on track if it gets final approval.