Cave Creek water invoicing takes center stage

By Linda Bentley | August 12, 2009

Jessica marlow, Usama Abujharah and Joe Fendler
Joe Fendler (r) met with Utilities Manager Jessica Marlow and Town Manager Usama Abujbarah to discuss his water bill. It wasn’t the amount of the bill that had Fendler upset, but the format and the program’s apparent inability to reflect payments and credits.

CAVE CREEK – Last week a frustrated Joe Fendler met with Utilities Manager Jessica Marlow and Town Manager Usama Abujbarah to discuss his water bills.

After receiving a pink past due notice, which he pulled out from his manila folder, Fendler said he called the utilities department and spoke to someone who asked him, “What’s your account number?”

Fendler pointed out to Marlow and Abujbarah where it states “Account Number” on the past due notice and said, “It says it’s zero.”

Marlow looked at the series of zeros next to “Account Number” and said the account number is really what is described on the notice as the “Location ID.”

Fendler said, “Your accounting system is lame, at best.”

Abujbarah and Marlow agreed.

According to Abujbarah, when the town originally selected its accounting software several years ago it didn’t have any need for an accounts receivable module.

He explained the town ordered the billing module for the town’s accounting program when it brought the utilities billing in-house from Arizona American about a year ago.

Fendler stated he has no way of knowing when he receives his bill each month if the total due is just for the current month or if the town has received payment from his bill-paying service, because the bill does not reflect previous balances, payments or credits. He said, “So, I have the bill-paying service send another check.”

Fendler asked, “What other bills do you receive that don’t reflect a previous balance, payments or credits?” and suggested the town use QuickBooks.

Abujbarah said it’s not that simple, since the billing program is integrated with the accounting program. If the town decides to change its accounting program, he said it would need to go through the bidding process.

The town would also want to utilize a program that would allow customers to view and pay their utility bills online, which Abujbarah said means finding a program that integrates with the town’s website.

Marlow said others using the accounting program have apparently complained about the same thing to the software company, which is working on a fix. However, she said they didn’t provide a timeline as to when they might have it done.

Fendler left with a deep-seated hope the program will be upgraded sometime before the end of the next two billing cycles.

Confusion over whether or not the town has received payments has resulted in Fendler receiving a past due notice and even a shut off notice, although Abujbarah assured Fendler the town would never shut water off during the summer months without first making contact with the customer.

Monday morning brought a little good news to the town when Utilities Technical Assistant Dave Adams reported both water storage tanks were full again and said they should be able to turn the supply lines to Carefree back on this week.