City sends out $800 water bills instead of disconnecting services while waiting for final water meter software upgrades

The City of Prince Albert has more than 1,200 water utility accounts that have not been upgraded with new water meter software, although 447 account holders have booked appointments. -- Herald File Photo

Prince Albert residents who have not made the upgrade to new water meter software in their homes are urged to book an appointment after the City handed out water bills exceeding $800 to outliers.

Director of Finance Ramona Fauchoux explained that the decision to inflate the water bills was a better option than City Administration’s original plan to disconnect services.

“We sent out three different letters to the residents. Metercor tried calling if we had a phone number on file. Metercor after that went door-to-door to the remaining residents to try and see if they could get in to do this endpoint software update,” said Fauchoux. “If the resident wasn’t home, they left a door tag with a fourth letter and that fourth letter did say that if the resident wasn’t going to make their appointment, we would then consider disconnecting their water.”

According to Fauchoux, Metercor is in the process of finalizing the endpoint software project. It is 90 per cent completed and is projected to be finished by the end of October, but not all residents are on board with the program yet.

“Since we’ve done this, we have had 447 of the 1234 residents remaining call in and book their appointments,” said Fauchoux. “We are trying our best to get these people to come in.”

She said that residents will not be charged interest on the inflated bill and it will be adjusted as soon as an appointment is booked for the upgrade. 

“This is just a way to get them to call in and get that endpoint software update done,” said Fauchoux. 

“It’s not all necessarily on the residents,” Coun. Blake Edwards added. “I can speak from experience. Booking an appointment and them not coming, that’s the unfortunate part.”

Edwards said he never received a tag on his door, with Coun. Ogrodnick and Mayor Greg Dionne in agreement. 

Dionne said he has never received a call back from Metercor to upgrade his water meter software, even after a promise from the company’s representative to get in contact with him at a later date.

“I also got an $800 water bill. I paid it but when you phone Metercor, you don’t get through,” said Ogrodnick, who called several times to book an appointment but only got an answering machine in response. “They say they will call you at their convenience, well I’m calling at my convenience when I have time.”

Fauchoux said she’s taken note of the discrepancies and will be speaking with Metercor’s representative to find out “exactly what has happened in some of these cases”.

The City’s water meter replacement program began in March of 2019, with a total of 11,332 meters replaced around Prince Albert by July 2020. In late 2021, the endpoint technology attached to these new water meters was disrupted, resulting in estimates being required for billing. 

The manufacturer of the technology found the best solution was to upgrade the software of the endpoint technology to ensure accurate billing as soon as possible. In March 2022, the City began sending out letters to residents encouraging them to book appointments with Metercor to resolve the issues at no-cost.

Appointments to upgrade the endpoint technology software can be made online or by calling 888-290-3070 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday to Friday.