The City of Bloomfield’s Utilities Department is always busy. The staff assists with water, sewer and garbage payments for both residential and commercial customers, provides garage sale permits and dog licenses, and helps with bulk water (hydrant meters and loading stations) purchases. The Utilities Department is designated as an “enterprise fund,” which means it is a governmental entity that is created to fund itself, according to Bloomfield Finance Director Brad Ellsworth. “The Utilities Department was expected to generate revenues of about $3.6 million in 2018,” Ellsworth said. “Its expenses for the year are estimated to be about $3 million. It doesn’t generate additional funding for the City, but does pay for itself, which is a benefit to the City.”
Glenda Dugger is the Lead Customer Service Representative and has served in that capacity for eight years. Dugger responded to several questions recently asked of her.
What is the biggest misunderstanding the public has of the Utilities Department?
Some expect their water to always be there without regard to the challenges and costs to supply it. They expect it to be very low in cost, but they need to be more aware that water is not free. It is the revenue generated through the utilities billing that aids in maintaining infrastructure. Our department works very closely with the Water Department and Municipal Operations Center to determine where our water losses are and to correct them. In the last few years, the City has replaced numerous water meters that no longer metered consumption.
What is the biggest challenge of your job?
The biggest challenge of this job is walking that line between your responsibility to the City of Bloomfield and your job requirements to make sure the bills go out correctly on time and payments are collected while educating some customers so they understand our billing process from meter reading through payment.
In the meantime, we meet with people who truly are experiencing hardships: a crisis of some kind or another like the loss of a family member, a serious illness, or losing a job. With the economic situation in our area, we are experiencing higher numbers of disconnects and it really gets to you when you see people's frustration.
Of course we have those moments with customers, who don’t always call you by your real name.
What do you like best about working in the Utilities Department?
I like being busy, and it hardly ever gets monotonous. We get to know our customers and appreciate them.
What information do you need before you can open an account?
A resident or tenant must provide a lease/rental/purchase agreement, or, at least, a tax bill or warranty deed showing his name at that address and a photo I.D. He will be required to complete our Residential or Commercial Agreement. If the documents show more than one responsible party, we require information and I.D's from all parties on the new utility account.
How many days is a customer delinquent before his service is terminated?
Many customers don’t realize that their utility bills are due in full each month and that we do accept partial payments and try to work with their individual hardships. When an account is two months past due, it is subject to disconnect. Once an account is disconnected, the account must be paid in full along with the service fees in the form of cash.
How long does it take to get service turned on?
Service is started by the end of the business day on the same day the deposit and fees are received.
What kind of payment is accepted?
We accept cash, check, money order, debit and credit cards (Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express). ACH (Automated Clearing House) is also a payment method we offer. ACH payments are electronic payments that are created when the customer gives an originating institution, corporation, or other customer (originator) authorization to debit directly from the customer’s checking or savings account for the purpose of bill payment. The customer would need to sign for this and provide a voided check copy. Payments are a direct draft from their bank account on the due date.
With the installation of our new financial software, we now offer bill pay through the City of Bloomfield’s website. The transaction fee is $1.25 to the customer and the City absorbs the remaining fee charged for this service.
Of course, our customers can pay through on-line-bill pay through their banks. Some customers don’t realize when they choose this method of payment that our department doesn’t receive notification of their payment immediately. It can take four to seven days for their payments to reach us.
Are there other “rules or regulations” that a customer must follow?
The water meters and equipment surrounding the meters are property of the City. No one should be turning his meter on and off. It is tampering and customers will be subject to citations and subsequent fines. The Utilities Department should be contacted so we can dispatch a City employee to their site to help.
What are the hours of the Utilities Department?
Our hours are Monday through Thursday 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
If you could change one thing about the department, what would it be?
I would like to have a drive-up window. We currently have a night drop box outside, but a drive up window wouldn’t require people to leave their cars just to drop a payment. Of course we couldn’t conduct all department functions via the window. We have come a long way in the last several years with the ability to take cards for payment and paying on line, which is something our customers requested. We still have some changes we are looking forward to.
Dugger also said many people come to the Utilities Department, which is located at Bloomfield’s City Hall, 915 N. First Street, looking for the Motor Vehicle Department, which used to be in that location. The Motor Vehicle Department is now part of the Bloomfield Police Department complex at 711 Ruth Lane, which also houses Municipal Court.
Finance Director Brad Ellsworth, who oversees the Utilities Department, said it runs smoothly and efficiently for two reasons. “Glenda provides great customer service. She are often the only City employees that people see, and I’m proud of the work she does and of the service she provides.” “The City is fortunate to have Glenda,” Ellsworth added. The following services are provided:
Pay by Phone $1.25 per payment transaction
Access your updated account instantly
Hear real-time balances, payment amounts, and due dates
Enter your information securely through an automated system