By Fort Campbell CourierAugust 13, 2010
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. -- Fort Campbell Family Housing is implementing billing changes to increase reliability for residents enrolled in the utility billing program.
This program makes residents living in housing on post responsible for monitoring their utility consumption. In effect Army-wide, the program began at Fort Campbell in 2006.
Fort Campbell instituted the utility billing program in stages. It began with mock billing, which allowed residents to get an idea of their consumption. By February, 295 homes were still in the mock billing phase, with the rest of the installation already participating in live billing.
While Ista North America previously served as the contracted biller, FCFH is transitioning to Minol as the new provider. This change became effective Aug. 1.
In order to correct billing issues, resident responsibility for utilities was suspended in February and FCFH assumed the payments for residents' utilities.
"[Ista] had a big software problem around about the October, November time frame," said George Hill, FCFH utility manager. "It caused problems with getting billings out."
Minol is a "solid company," Hill said. The profiles used before will stay the same, but the billing process will be better for residents.
"Our residents deserve better than that," Hill said. " ... [Minol] will issue bills and rebates just like the old company did - hopefully without the problems that they had."
As Minol takes responsibility, mock bills will be sent to all Fort Campbell residents for the months of August and September. Then, live billing will resume for about 4,200 Fort Campbell homes in October. These statements will be mailed in November.
Residents due a rebate for utilities used prior to February will receive the payment, and those owing bills will still be required to pay their previous balance, a FCFH release said.
"We're letting people get used to seeing Minol's invoice," Hill said. "[It lets] a lot of the new people see what their consumption is and where they stand as far as the rest of their profile goes."
On post utility billing is determined through the use of profiles. The profiles group homes with others that have similar characteristics. For example, an older home compared to a newer one would be in different profiles. Baselines are then established by averaging the consumption for each profile.
Families exceeding the average baseline for their profile have to pay the difference, while those using less energy receive a rebate.
Whether or not you receive a bill or a refund is based on whether you are $15 over or under the baseline amount. If a Family does not exceed the $15 threshold, that amount accumulates toward a future
refund or bill.
Since its inception, the program has saved between 5-10 percent of housing costs, Hill said.
"It's so hard to put your finger on a specific reason for savings, because there are so many variables," Hill said. "Ten percent of $10 million budget is a lot of money."
The money saved is put directly back into the community for improvements and upgrades.
"The more money we can knock off of [utility payments], the earlier we can build new homes, the sooner we can renovate homes ... the better amenities we can put in when we do renovate," Hill said.
New splash parks, playgrounds and other amenities are the result of such cost-saving measures, FCFH Communications Coordinator David Brockman said.
"The money that we do save goes back into the project," he said.
Reviews are mixed from residents on the utility billing program's previous success. Some entitled to rebates never received them, while others found themselves paying extra despite attempts to conserve.
"When we were receiving the bills last year, we always had a balance due," Resident Georgina Ziska Lowe said in a posting on the Courier Facebook page. "Both my husband and I worked all day and were only home at night. I have no idea how that worked out."
Fort Campbell resident Missy Hendricks and her husband moved on post more than a year ago.
"My husband and I have been living in Lee Park since January 2009," Hendricks said in an e-mail. "We have seen two statements stating thanks for saving energy. That's great. We always keep our thermostat above the [temperature] it should be. We have kept all lights off when not in the room.
"It's unfair that for over the last year we've done our part but housing hasn't. I understand the whole auditing [process], but they should reimburse those Families that did the right thing by saving energy."
While not all residents are receiving the correct rebates or bills, others found the program to function well.
"When we moved on post last year, we always received rebate checks until December," Resident Stephanie Odell said in a posting to the Courier Facebook page. "We would normally get anywhere from $30-$50 back every month."
With the change in billing, FCFH officials hope to increase customer satisfaction.
"They have a much better program for identifying problems and letting us know," Hill said of Minol.
A utility town hall will be held in late September to address any issues or questions with the new bills.
For questions about utility billing, contact the Minol number listed on your billing statement, your community manager or FCFH.
For those who feel they are overcharged for their usage, audits can be performed on request. Kyle Chandler, FCFH employee, said audits can help.
"I certainly don't mind going out and doing an audit for anyone," he said. "In most cases, I like to go out and just show them how they can conserve.
"I check the electrical systems in the house to make sure first and foremost that there's not any issues that maintenance needs to address, if it's something they are able to address. ... I will inform residents on ways that they can save and answer any questions that they have about the program."
More information about Fort Campbell's utility billing program is available at the FCFH website: www.ftcampbellfh.com.