The Richland City Council approved a contract with Exceleron for use of their software program, MyUsagePrePay at their May 18 meeting. The program aims at reducing delinquent utility accounts by giving consumers a pay-as-you-go-plan.

At the April 27 council meeting, Administrative Services Director Cathleen Koch said that in 2019, 400 consumers had delinquent accounts amounting to approximately $200,000. The contract that has been approved is for 500 consumers.

My UsagePrePay will cost at least $41,000 a year. The city has signed a three-year contract and will pay $15,000 for configuration and a minimum fee of $3000 a month to use the program with service provided by Exceleron.

Councilmember Marianne Boring asked to pull the utility pre-payment plan off the consent calendar for discussion and a separate vote.

Borings first concern was the termination part of the agreement which requires the city to pay all of fees for the rest of the contract should it wish to cancel.

Energy Services Director Clint Whitney said that Exceleron had been great to work with and he really saw no downside to the contract.

Boring also pointed out the houses without utilities were considered uninhabitable.

Whitney responded that electricity was usually the first utility cut off and that customers usually paid their bills before water and sewer were disconnected as well. Whitney referred to it as an “escalation process.”

Whitney did not provide any figures to indicate how many customers were disconnected from electricity in 2019 and how many were disconnected from all utilities. Due to COVID there has been a disconnection moratorium since early 2020 and 4000 accounts are now delinquent for a total of $2 million.

Whitney noted that the plan would work well not only for people who wanted to pay as they used the electricity but also for people who could not afford deposits.

National Night Out

Police Chief John Bruce wants the National Night Out to be held in the neighborhoods rather that at John Dam Plaza. According to the Night Out organization, the yearly event, held on the first Tuesday in August, is to promote police and community partnerships.  The council agreed to have their August 4 meeting on another day so they could participate in the neighborhood programs.

Secret Meeting

Richland City Council secret meetings (also known as Executive Sessions) have become more secret. The one held Tuesday was not even listed on the agenda. Interim City Manager Jon Amundson announced at the end of the Tuesday night city council meeting that there would be a “closed session” after the public meeting to discuss labor negotiations.