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City manager offers apology for water billing issues


Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

City Manager Joe Neeb offered an apology at Thursday night’s Roswell City Council meeting for the problems the city has had with its new water billing system and said further adjustments would take another two months.

“We are working diligently to try to get this thing rectified and get this fixed. Nobody should have to deal with this and we apologize for that,” Neeb said.

The issue has been updating from what Neeb called an “archaic” analog billing system to a new digital system, which the city began in December. He likened it to upgrading from the video game “Pong,” the 1972 ping-pong themed game with simple black and white graphics to “Minecraft,” the three-dimensional world-creating game popular today.

“The translation of information just does not go well,” Neeb said. “We’ve had some challenges with updating account information and posting of payments.”

Neeb said the city has 20 cycles of customers in the water department, each consisting of 900 customers. That means the city has a new cycle of customers every weekday of the month.

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“As we find these problems and these glitches within there, it’s compounding because we’re sending out the next cycle. So as we’re fixing one cycle we’re having another cycle with similar problems coming up,” he said.

The city has added temporary staff to help answer phone calls. The city also opened the computer lab at the Roswell Adult Center and is providing hands-on help in setting up online accounts for those who aren’t familiar with computers, Neeb said.

Neeb said staff is correcting the issues as the city moves through the billing cycles, so the problems will gradually decrease.

“As they fix these things, the same problems don’t come back, but it takes us a little while to fix these live issues within the translation of that information,” he said. “From this point we see two additional months of adjustments within there.”

Neeb said no accounts will be turned off due to lack of payment, a practice that was started in March of last year after the pandemic began.

“We are not shutting off people and we will not be penalizing for late payments within this window of time,” he said.

“Nobody will be adversely affected. It’s really just the frustrations of not getting this thing fixed,” he said.

Also in his report, Neeb said the council will further address issues concerning its rules of order. A small-group meeting will be scheduled next week to put together language to be brought to the Legal Committee on Feb. 25, he said.

“One of the big questions that has affected the council in the last few months is the consent agenda,” he said. “We’re going to try to identify how things move through the consent agenda.”

Last fall, Councilor Juan Oropesa raised questions about the effectiveness of the city’s committee system and use of the consent agenda. Items that are considered housekeeping or non-controversial that do not need discussion of the full council are typically added to the consent agenda. All items on the consent agenda are approved in one motion.

However, any councilor can request any of the items be removed from the consent agenda and be placed on the regular agenda for discussion and separate vote.

Oropesa objected to items that had been rejected by one committee appearing on other committees’ agendas and expressed concerns that items with large expenditures were being placed on the consent agenda.

Thursday, as has been done in recent months, several items were removed from the consent agenda for discussion.

Neeb said the committee system allows for greater transparency to the public, however, by introducing topics prior to the monthly City Council meetings.

He said the small-group meeting will look at the flow of items through the committee system and how the council’s rules of order work. The council will also examine how it can better use the citizen committees — such as the Parks and Recreation Commission, and the boards of trustees for the Roswell Museum and Art Center and the public library.

“We believe we should be utilizing those citizen committees more than what we have been,” Neeb said.

The full City Council will also have a special meeting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday. The only item on the agenda is a closed session to discuss a property transaction.

“It will be a closed session. There will be no action taken but I need your assistance in order to deal with an issue that is time-sensitive. This is the best way we could pull you all together,” Neeb said.

In other business Thursday, the council voted unanimously to approve the following:

  A request for proposals to form a pool of contractors to perform water main work.

• Design services with HDR, Albuquerque, for dissolved oxygen improvements at the waste water treatment plant for $102,481. The improvements are required to meet new federal standards.

• A lease agreement with Ascent Aviation Services at the Roswell Air Center.

• Renewal of a lease with Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell for an area at the old municipal airport.

• A resolution certifying the city meets commitments required by the Community Development Block Grant funding renovation of the Boys and Girls Club building.

• A resolution authorizing sale of surplus property donated to the Roswell Public Library.

• Phase two of the wayfinding consulting agreement with Groundwork Studios.

• A new policy on the disposal of surplus property.

• Two concepts for improvements at the McBride Veterans Cemetery — a cover for military honor guards at the existing pavilion and a helicopter memorial.

The council rejected by a vote of 1-9 a proposal to award a rehabilitation project for the Spring River Trail to Constructors Inc., Carlsbad, in the amount of $208,501. City engineer Louis Najar requested the council not approve the award so the project can be reduced in scope to reduce its budget. Councilor Savino Sanchez cast the one approval vote.

City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or reporter04@rdrnews.com.

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