Billing and Clerical Problems of a Small Utility
By SAMUEL E. ELLIS Partner, Kansas City Office
Presented before the Thirty-second Annual Convention of the Missouri
Association of Municipal Utilities, Kansas City — March 1957
The subject of my paper is stated in the program to be "Billing and Clerical Problems of a Small Utility." I should like to amplify this title a little by adding the words "And What Can Be Done About Them." You all know that the problems exist; the important thing is to be aware that others have found satisfactory solutions to many of your difficulties and that progress is being made toward solving even those that appear most stubborn. Obviously, solutions vary depending upon circumstances and conditions; however, I have selected for discussion some of the problems which I feel are most common and intend to present solutions which may be adaptable to most situations.
First, perhaps, we should determine what is meant by the term "small utility." No utility serving the public is small to its employees and customers nor is it small in the rendition of service; it is only by comparison with the giants of the industry that a difference in physical size would result in one being called "large" and the other "small." Obviously, any utility in this area, whether municipally owned or privately owned, would be considered small when compared to, say, Detroit Edison with a million and a quarter customers or to Commonwealth Edison or Consolidated Edison, both substantially
larger than the Detroit firm. Under the circumstances it is probably
best to set an arbitrary upper limit to the size of the typical utility with whose clerical problems we will deal — say, 15,000 or 20,000 meters or other stations. I am sure that many of the organizations represented at this convention will fall within the defined limit. Parenthetically, it might be wise to point out here that my remarks will deal primarily with such services as electricity, gas, water, and telephone; although municipal transportation
systems have similar problems with respect to the control of stores, property, preparation of payrolls, etc., they do not have to contend with meter-reading, billing, accounts receivable, and credit problems.
MUNICIPAL OWNERSHIP VS. PRIVATE OWNERSHIP
Municipal utilities are distinguished from privately owned utilities by the fact that every customer is a part-owner or at least so considers himself.