Iola transitions to new billing

The City of Iola will now send utility bills in envelope instead of as a postcard. Customers can expect to see the change beginning with April 11 bills.

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March 14, 2024 - 2:58 PM

Iola City Clerk Roxanne Hutton shows an example of a new utility bill and envelope. Photo by Sarah Haney / Iola Register

Out with the old and in with the new. The City of Iola is revamping the format of its utility bills to an estimated 5,000 customers. The post card is being replaced with a single sheet of paper placed in an envelope.

“The first bill will be printed April 11, which will be some people’s delinquent notices as well as the new bill,” said Iola City Clerk Roxanne Hutton.

The switch came out of necessity on several fronts.

Hutton noted the city’s supplier of the cards was having a hard time finding a manufacturer. She added the blue ink on the cards was preprinted, which she believes was hard on the suppliers’ machines.

There are only two companies that still make the cards, according to Hutton. “It’s just really hard to get them,” she said.

In addition to the scarcity of the cards, or perhaps because of, the cards were getting more expensive.

The cards were also getting lost in the mail more frequently, she said, noting they frequently slip inside magazines and catalogs.

“We’ve had some mailing issues with them,” she said.

Hutton pointed to communities like Humboldt who have had similar issues with the cards before ultimately switching to a new billing process.

At this week’s Humboldt City Council meeting, City Administrator Cole Herder noted the city’s transition to a similar delivery model is going well.

The new bill will be a single sheet of paper, folded, and stuffed into a standard envelope. The envelope will have the words “UTILITY BILL” printed on the front, to help customers distinguish it from other pieces of mail. With the switch to the larger format, the city will have more space to utilize.

“It will give us a lot more room to place comments or notices on the bills as necessary,” Hutton said. “Since there’s plenty of room, we could put reminders for clean-up week or anything else on them.”

City Hall staff will start off manually folding each bill and putting them in envelopes. “We have looked at prices for folding machines and they are a little expensive,” said Hutton. “We’re probably going to have to go that route, though.”

Another upside to the switch is the ease of printing. Hutton noted that the thicker postcards were hard on the department’s copier.

As far as cost, Hutton noted that with the paper, envelopes and postage, it will cost a bit more, but expects it will even out “the way the cost to deliver postcards keeps creeping up,” she said. “And if you take into consideration how many of them we had to reprint if they were lost in the mail, that adds to that cost as well.”

A new feature on the bills will be a QR code. When a customer scans the code, it will take them directly to the city’s online utility billing portal. From here, they will be able to pay their bill online if they choose.

Hutton acknowledges that many people are sad to see the cards go away — including herself. However, she believes the new bills will “provide a way for us to give more information to the customers, as well as streamline the whole billing process.”

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