A years-long process to bring Bothell’s utility operations up to speed with modern best practices will be complete on July 29.
The city of Bothell is now taking the final steps to implement its utility billing system update that has been in the works for several years. David Bickel, information systems application analyst for the city, said seven departments worked together to overhaul the payment and billing and meter reading systems, among many others.
The last time the city updated the billing system was in 2004, Bickel said, and customers have been making requests for more modern options for paying bills. Bothell has about 5,500 accounts he said, and the upgrades have been made to improve efficiency both for residents and the utilities department.
The new billing system now offers online payments, account histories and viewable past bills. More payment options will be available such as e-checks and American Express as well as the option to sign up for a recurring payment schedule.
“Online payments, that’s answering the biggest ask from our customers, the ability to be able to view information online, its nice to be able to provide information to our customers at a glance,” Bickel said. “Plus paper free (billing options), I like the idea of not having to print the bill.”
He also noted that the city will be using a new meter-reading system that will help complete certain processes in hours when they have historically taken days.
“The reading system is much more efficient, we took this as an opportunity to align ourselves to current industry best practices,” he said.
On July 23, the system was frozen and the data was taken and converted for future use with the new billing processes. On July 29, the new system will be up and running.
Bickel said the city plans to inform all customers of the cities utilities of the new changes and share educational information they need to stay up to date with the new system. The city will mail out everyone’s new account numbers and the steps to take depending on what form of payment they prefer to make. A second mailing will come with the bill for May and June usage, the last bill out of the old system, but will be paid through the new system.
Bickel also said there will be how-to videos on the city’s official YouTube page as well as written guides on the city’s website.
The process to craft these new systems went deep, Bickel said, as staff questioned many of the assumptions of past processes to create a better system.
“We would sit down and look at our process and any time we’ve heard ‘we’ve always done it that way’ we dug deep to find the reason,” he said. “That’s going to make our staff a lot more efficient in their activities.”