Haltom City & Fathom to Separate - Nov 26, 2019 Update
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FATHOM will remain open for business until December 9, 2019. Please continue to make your payments as you do now until December 9th. As previously stated, Haltom City staff will soon begin operating the City’s water utility billing function just as it did before our agreement with Fathom. We will open the in-house Water Utility Billing Department on December 10, 2019.
Customers are asked to discontinue utilizing the current auto-pay billing feature (to Fathom) prior to December 10, 2019. Once the Haltom City Water Utility Billing Department is open, all payments will be directed to the Haltom City Water Department through the following means:
- Customers will be able to pay by check or money order utilizing the mailing address: “P.O. Box 14247 Haltom City, Texas 76117”.
- Customers can pay in-person at the counter—located at 5024 Broadway Avenue (City Hall)—by cash, check, money order, or credit card. All written payments should be made payable to: “Haltom City Water Department”. The drive-thru drop box will also be open.
- Additionally, customers will be able to pay by phone—24 hours-a-day—once the automated system has been fully established and a new phone number is created.
All auto-draft payments will need to be re-established and updated. As of today, we are still working on activating the system that will allow us to offer this service to customers.
Please be patient - We have been working diligently the last two weeks to build and train the necessary staff, create the necessary database, and establish partnerships which will allow us to provide the highest level of service to our citizens. Because we understand the importance and value of the “customer portal”—which currently tracks hourly usage and provides leak detection alerts—we are working through the necessary processes to keep these capabilities active and available to all customers.
“Will I have an interruption in water service?” There will be NO interruption in water service to our customers because of Fathom’s recent decision to end/transfer their operations. The City receives its water from Fort Worth and we maintain the city’s water system. The Neptune automated meters—which were installed during the transition are both owned and operated by the City. FATHOM has never possessed the capability to turn water service on or off to your residence or business—this process is controlled by City staff.
Haltom City & Fathom to Separate
This update will include not only the plan going forward but some explanations and answers to some common questions of where we were, where we are now and where we are going as it relates to the water and wastewater services. There has been some confusion regarding Fathom as it relates to the cost of water.
Will water costs go down now that Fathom is going away?
Some contribute the increase of water over the past few years to Fathom. The truth is, Fathom had nothing to do with the increase in the cost of water, conversely, there will be no decrease in the cost of water when they leave. The only thing that controls the cost of water is how much is used by the consumer. The City Council did not raise water rates this year. They are the same as last year.
Why did water bills increase in recent years?
The increased costs were because new accurate meters were installed and there have been numerous increases in water rates from our supplier (Ft. Worth) prior to this current fiscal year. This would have been true no matter who installed the new meters. Before Fathom, we had old meters in the ground up to 30+ years and it was not fair for citizens to have meters all working at different levels/capacities. In addition, we were losing significant money (in the red) every year due to water and wastewater losses. Remember our supplier accurately measures every gallon coming in and out of the city. We were not recouping the funds for all of the used water due to faulty meters. Now that the system is upgraded, and the faulty equipment is gone we are starting to realize efficiencies in the system. Our past Councils (in recent times) had no choice but to pass on cost increases from Ft. Worth because we had no efficiencies to absorb loss. We were already bleeding financially in the water/wastewater fund. Your water utility rates fund not only the water itself but all the operations, maintenance and capital improvements necessary to keep the water supply adequate and safe.
The old meters should have been replaced many years ago.If there would have been a replacement schedule the citizens who had the faultier meters would not have been as financially impacted. We hope the community can appreciate the efforts of the recent City Council and understand the reality of what they had to deal with as it relates to righting the ship regarding new meters. Sometimes the right decision is not the most popular decision.
As far as Fathom is concerned, we (staff, City Council, Citizens) are (as well as their other client cities across the country) very frustrated that Fathom did not give us more notice of their financial situation. However, we are in a better place than many of the other Fathom client cities because we have maintained and contemplated a back-up plan to take the billing functions back in-house. There are key pieces that we kept in place and maintained in the event their contract did not work out. It has been determined that we will once again perform the billing operations in-house with city staff.
Was the independent audit conducted at the end of last year correct?
We are confident the audit performed was accurate and correct. The audit was consistent with our own in-house testing and the audit firm used a nationally certified lab to test meters. The billing platform was also deemed accurate within the accepted industry standards. Our audit results were the same as another city’s audit that was conducted by a different audit firm - at or around the same time frame. Fathom’s financial sustainability is not related to the accuracy of the meters or their billing process. Fathom’s business model from their own words was to give low costs billing operations and profit from scale. In other words, high growth and high volume. This scale or growth did not happen fast enough for Fathom to become profitable and sustain for the long-term.
Why did we ever enter into an agreement with Fathom?
Fathom was the only company that offered all the services needed. They facilitated the installation of the new meters and associated hardware and software. They took over all billing operations with a 24-hour call center and a local walk-in payment center. They provided a portal so citizens could monitor their system hour by hour and even detect leaks. This system, when utilized, gave real time information to the consumer to control their own water usage and lower their costs. Unfortunately, Fathom is not able to maintain its services.
Will I have an interruption in water service?
There will be NO interruption in water service to our customers resulting from Fathom’s decision to close their business. The City receives its water from Fort Worth and we maintain the city’s water system. The water meters and Neptune meter readers, which were installed during the transition in 2017 are owned by the City. Fathom does NOT have the capability to turn water on/off to your residence, this must be done by City staff.
How do I make bill payments, where does the money go, and what happens to my account deposit?
Until further notice, we recommend customers continue to make payments via the current options available. All money that is collected by Fathom on behalf of the City by any method is applied to the appropriate customer account and remitted to the City.
Who will handle my billing and customer service needs?
Until further notice, Fathom is still handling billing and customer care needs through the end of November 2019. As of December 2, 2019, the city water utility office in the Haltom City Hall located at 5024 Broadway Ave. will be open. Payment option details will be communicated at a later date.
Will Fathom be required to pay any money back and/or be sued by the City?
The City’s Attorney is currently reviewing the contract and will be providing a legal opinion to the City Council at the appropriate time.