May 16, 2020 – In 2017, the City of Savannah contracted with KPMG, Inc. to produce the City of Savannah Utility Billing and Collection Assessment Report after a number of disastrous months of billing errors that began in November 2015 following the inaccurate installation of a new water billing software installation.
The city staff found itself unable to bill water service correctly or in a timely fashion, resulting in the loss of revenue as renters, such as college students, moved out of the area, or residents were faced with inordinately high bills that they couldn’t pay. The city also ended up having to hire a collection firm to chase back balances. At one point, the media was told that former City Manager Rob Hernandez estimated that about $9.8 million in payments were not collected as of December 2016 due to the delayed billings and stalled collection efforts.
In order to get a handle on all of the issues, Mayor Eddie DeLoach and the prior City Council approved a study by KPMG, Inc., one of the largest accounting and consulting firms in the U.S., to analyze the City of Savannah’s utility billing and collection processes and procedures.
Per recommendation 6.1 and 6.4 of the report, KPMG, Inc. recommended that the City of Savannah should prioritize obtaining accurate meter information and the creation of electronic processes that allow for better tracking and sharing of data pertaining to maintaining an accurate meter inventory – where meter service actually existed.
According to the city staff, in its recommendations to the Savannah City Council last Thursday, “While many improvements have been made to these processes, the City now desires a full survey of all existing AMR and AMI meter equipment to ensure the accuracy of meter inventory records moving forward.
After an RFP process, the Purchasing Dept. recommended approval to procure water meter data collection services from Utility Partners of America in the amount of $653,441, which was approved Thursday afternoon by Council.
The services will be used by the Public Works and Water Resources and Revenue Department and include water meter data collection for the City of Savannah’s existing Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) and Advanced Meter Infrastructure (AMI) system.
The existing advanced infrastructure system is a Badger Orion/Beacon Cellular System and is a hybrid structure of both AMR and AMI units with a total of approximately 29,000 water units. These “smart” water meter units serve customers in the City of Savannah and unincorporated areas of Chatham County.
“In order to most greatly benefit from the efficiencies AMR and AMI technology can provide, the City desires to obtain key information for each of the City’s automated meters, including, but not limited to, the GPS location at sub-meter accuracy, a photograph of each meter site and product, the endpoint/radio type, a visual survey of the property type, and the resolution setting,” according to the staff report.
The data collected will assist the City in transitioning to the updated Badger Beacon Meter Reading Software, as well as be utilized in the CityWorks asset inventory system, which will allow for improved management of water system equipment.
Four proposals were received in response to this RFP. All proposals were reviewed and fully evaluated by a selection committee of City staff.
The bidders included B.P. Utility Partners of America (Greenville, SC) (D) for $653,441
KHAFRA Engineering Consultants, Inc. (Atlanta, GA) (C) $939,100
RTS Water Solutions (Gambrills, MD)(D) $488,000
Matchpoint Water Asset Management (Wilmington, NC)(D) $260,000.
A pre-proposal conference was conducted and six vendors attended.
(A) indicates local, DBE-owned business. (C) indicates non-local, DBE-owned business. (D) Indicates non-local, non-DBE business. Recommend approval.
A total of 633 local vendors were sent notification via the supplier portal.