York City Council stalls York Water Co. sewage billing agreement

Rebecca Klar
York Dispatch

York City Council members decided to keep a proposed agreement over sewage and refuse billing between the city and York Water Co. off upcoming legislative agendas until city hashes out details internally. 

The council's decision at a Wednesday, Oct. 24, committee meeting means it will not be voting on the proposal in November. There are no committee meetings planned in December, pushing further public discussion to January. 

The York Water Company files a rate request with the state Public Utility Commission. (Amanda J. Cain)

The proposal, which was first presented to the council by the city administration at a regular city council meeting in October, would place the York Water Co. in charge of sewage and refuse billing, which is currently done by city finance department employees. 

The proposal could alleviate resident issues with the current billing system and save the city an estimated $125,000, said acting business administrator Tommy Williams. 

The proposed deal with York Water will cost about $490,000; the city currently spends about $615,000 each year on in-house billing, he said. 

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Under the five-year agreement, the city would pay York Water a monthly fee of $2.50 for each active account. Both parties would have to agree to a fee change. 

Williams said that no employees would lose their jobs if this agreement is approved. The two employees currently handling the billing would be transferred to vacant positions, he said. 

When asked if the job transfers were guaranteed, Williams said yes, but not in writing. 

Mayor Michael Helfrich said it is one component of a larger plan to bring back in-house inspections that were outsourced a few years ago. 

"By doing that, we are going to require additional finance and administrative people, so these folks are going to be able to shift from what they're doing, doing sewer bills, to doing licensing and inspection work that is currently being outsourced," Helfrich said. "So that's how it all works together."

Williams said he could not say if the issue lies with the system itself or if staff members are not trained to use it, but inefficiencies are occurring somewhere in the process. 

"Going with the York Water deal, we can alleviate a big portion of those inefficiencies and a create a customer-friendly atmosphere," he said. 

York Water chief operating officer J.T. Hand said he believes his company can supply a better customer service experience for York residents. 

Council Vice President Sandie Walker said, "I'm not disagreeing with that piece."

Walker's issue with the agreement lies in aspects the city needs to work out, including transferring the employees and handling payment plans and delinquent accounts, she said. 

"I would like us as a city to iron it out a little more," she said. 

Council President Henry Nixon agreed, stating his hesitation has little to do with the York Water Co. and more to do internally with the city. 

"And until those questions are satisfied ... I'm not prepared to move forward," Nixon said.