Bismarck Public Works making changes on how people are billed

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The Public Works Department in Bismarck is changing how customers are billed.

We spoke with the director about corrections the department is making.

The city measures water usage in three categories: single-family homes, which is one-meter monitoring use; multifamily homes, where one meter monitors multiple units; and non-residential, which covers businesses.

Customers have been seeing changes to their bills and taking their concerns to social media.

Some single-family homes were billed as multi-family homes. The inquires from these people led the department to find that of 22,000 total accounts, about 5,000 were impacted.

“That discussion helped confirm that they had intended to have those individually metered accounts actually within the single-family,” said Michelle Klose, Director of Utility Operations.

The adjustments didn’t stop there, but single-family home usage was categorized differently for some users.

“We went through a process of removing that sewer averaging. With the first step we also found an additional piece with some multi-family homes that we had put in the multi-family category that are single-family homes,” Klose said.

The plant produces around 22 million gallons of water and can produce up to 27 million gallons. A softening basin removes dirt particles from the water.

“It’s $5- to-10 million of cost to get another million gallons a day of treated water. That needs to be paid for somehow,” said Jim Kershaw, City of Bismarck Water Superintendent

The Public Works Department sees a spike in water usage in summer months compared to winter months.

“We go through chlorine faster and everything is at a lot higher pace. It’s more wear and tear on the equipment that we have, and; we’re running everything we can run when, we need it,” Kershaw said.

“That’s really usually when that usage peaks from six and a half million gallons a day to 22 million gallons a day. This use, 20 million is really for outdoor use. The six million is really what we are using for washing clothes. We actually put a new pump in the Northwest pump station,” Klose said.

The plant has made other changes to keep up with the higher demand for water.

“If there was anything overbilled in 2019, and those accounts that we are moving over to single-family. We do have some single water users that use only six to eight and 10 units of water. Those we will look at to see if there are any adjustments or corrections,” Klose said.

Higher usage is reported on Mondays and Fridays of the week from using sprinkler systems. Officials say by customers cutting back can help reduce the stress on equipment and it will also keep their water bill more in line with what they are used to.

The department is working on a master plan that will help improve the plant’s efficiency and its daily operations.

It’s expected to be completed by spring of next year.

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