*note: This article only applies to water customers who recently transitioned their billing to HBPW, as indicated in the green area of the water service area map below.
Timing of Water Rates Increases and the HBPW Agreement
As of July 1st, 2020, Park Township has entered into a water utility agreement with Holland Board of
Public Works (HBPW) to manage billing, service and maintenance for water customers in about half of
the township. While we communicated this transition late in the Spring, it has come to our attention
that there remains some confusion around the timing of this transition and an increase in water rates,
which are not related events.
About the Rate Increases
In October, 2019, the Park Township Board of Trustees approved a water rates increase in alignment with the findings from a Water Asset Management Study. The study revealed that the old rates would not be able to fund infrastructure repair and replacement costs in the long term. Affected customers had not seen a rate change in nearly a decade, and this increase was a critical correction bringing rates into alignment with others in the region. The increase, which for most customers was about 50%, went into effect for bills received in April, 2020.
About the HBPW Utility Agreement
Also during this period, Park Township was evaluating a water utility agreement with HBPW. Park Township does not have a dedicated water utility department or staff, and the township pursued the agreement with HBPW to control costs, mitigate risk and create a simpler customer service experience. The Park Township Board of Trustees signed off on the agreement in March.
Higher than Usual Water Bills
For most customers, water usage is substantially higher in the summer, and this was the first summer that affected customers experienced the higher cost. Park Township customers do not yet have remotely-readable meters, which require a manual read, previously conducted quarterly. However, HBPW bills for water usage monthly and needs to estimate usage based on last year’s usage data for these bills.
In September, and for the next several months, we are continuing to physically carry out quarterly
meter readings to ensure that usage is reconciled and billing is 100% accurate over each quarter.
Starting later this year, and continuing through July of 2021, HBPW will be upgrading meters, making
monthly reads possible and also converting measurement units from gallons to cubic feet.
The timing of this first summer at the new rates along with the switch to HBPW as the billing entity has
been a source of confusion for some customers. We sincerely apologize for any confusion or unwelcome
surprise in your water bill.
It is likely that bills received in late October will still feel comparatively high. However, in the coming fall
and winter months, most customers will see their water bills decrease significantly as usage for lawn
irrigation, recreation and consumption decrease.
Enclosed with this letter is a timeline of important dates and milestones of these transitions and an
FAQs document to help answer questions.
For more information on how to read your new bill, please visit:
Park Township & Holland BPW
Water Utility Timeline & Milestones
|Oct, 2019||After reviewing a Water Asset Management Study and in alignment with a renewed capital management plan, the Park Township Board of Trustees approved rate increases for affected township customers.|
|Oct, 2019||Park Township issued a letter to affected customers explaining the change and shared the information publicly.|
|Mar, 2020||Park Township, HBPW and the City of Holland approved a Water Utility Agreement for HBPW to manage billing, service and maintenance for affected township customers.|
|April, 2020||Park Township issued a letter to all affected customers explaining the transition to HBPW and shared the information publicly.|
|June, 2020||HBPW sent out new customer packets with information about rates, billing and payment options, and direct bank payment setup.|
|July 1, 2020||HBPW officially began responsibility for water utility maintenance and service.|
|July, 2020||Customers received final bills from Park Township for water usage in the second quarter (April through June, 2020).|
|August 15-30, 2020||Customers received first monthly water bills from HBPW, prorated to 45 days (July 1 – Aug 15).|
|Jan 2021 – July 2021||One neighborhood at a time, HBPW will reach out to schedule your home for new meter installation and install an upgraded water meter.|
Water Bill FAQs
Why have my water bills been higher than usual, especially the first one?
At the end of 2019, Park Township passed an important, corrective increase in water rates (we answer why in a later FAQ) that averaged about 50% for affected customers. During peak use in the summer months of July, August and September, the impact of the rates increase is even higher, while in winter months, the impact is less noticeable. This was the first summer that Park Township customers experienced with the new rates in place.
Unrelated to the rate increase, Park Township has also transitioned management of billing and service for a portion of water customers to Holland BPW (HBPW). When bringing on new customers, HBPW needed to catch up customers to a mid-month billing cycle, so customers saw their first monthly bill accounted for 45 days of usage from July 1 to August 15. Coupled with the rate increase, this increased the size of the first bill to an abnormally high amount. However, bills for August 15 – September 15 returned to the standard cycle, and going forward, customers will only see bills for a standard month’s worth of usage.
Is HBPW responsible for the increase in my water rates?
No, the rate increases were approved by Park Township in October 2019 and went into effect on Jan 1, 2020. These increases were in response to a township water asset management study, which revealed the previous rate structure was not sustainable to fund long term needs for repair and replacement. The corrective rate increase was necessary regardless of a retail agreement with HBPW.
Does HBPW have different rates than the higher ones Park Township approved last year?
HBPW’s rates are about the same, and in many cases, a bit lower depending on the meter. HBPW bills have greater detail than Park Township’s previous bills, and they are also billed in cubic feet instead of gallons. If you have questions on how to read your bill, please visit: https://hollandbpw.com/en/customer-service/welcome-aboard-park-township
Why are we with HBPW now?
Park Township has partnered with Holland Board of Public Works (HBPW) in a water utility agreement to maintain and service about 4,000 township water customers. As of July 1, 2020 HBPW has been handling billing, service and maintenance for customers included in the agreement.
Park Township does not have a dedicated water utility or staff to manage planning and maintenance of the system. The township already relied on HBPW and Holland Charter Township for maintenance and installs but handled billing and customer service internally. Park Township and HBPW began exploring the possibility of a closer relationship in 2019 to reduce costs, mitigate risk and simplify customer service and billing.
The Park Township Board of Trustees, Holland Board of Public Works and Holland City Council signed off on the retail agreement in April, 2020 after determining the consolidation of services was a good fit and cost-saving measure for the region.
Did my water source change?
No, Park Township customers affected by this change continue to receive their water from Holland Board of Public Works water treatment plant, which draws from Lake Michigan. This did not change.
Why was this a good move?
This regional partnership brings high value to both Park Township customers and HBPW customers. A combined system reduces risk for both service areas and creates a lower and more predictable cost structure for the township.
HBPW has a strong reputation locally and across the country for reliable service, future-focused planning and community investment. In entering a full retail agreement with HBPW, Park Township customers have more convenient billing and payment options, easy-access customer service and greater insight into their usage through an online portal.
How did you communicate about this?
Park Township announced the rate increase in October, 2019 with direct letters to customers explaining why it was necessary. The township also issued a release to the press and the Holland Sentinel covered the story.
Then, in April, 2020 Park Township and HBPW issued a joint release to the press and a direct mail letter to affected customers explaining the transition in billing and water agreement. Holland Board of Public Works also sent new customer packets explaining the new bills, water meter options and FAQs to affected customers in May and June.
Park Township and HBPW have maintained a high level of transparency in customer communications throughout this process.
How will this affect billing & meters?
While Park Township used to bill quarterly, HBPW bills monthly on a billing cycle that ends at the 15th of each month.
Customers who paid Park Township using automatic bank drafts (ACH payments) have received instructions from HBPW on how to set up that payment process. ACH payments did not transfer automatically.
Customers who already received a bill for electricity from HBPW did not need to take any action as their water usage now appears with their monthly HBPW utility bill.
Why are some bills estimated?
Park Township water customers have older meters that require physical reads, which used to take place quarterly. Because HBPW sends out bills monthly instead of quarterly, the usage amounts are estimates based on what customers used during the same period last year. At the end of each quarter, we will take a physical read to reconcile the estimates with the actual usage. The water bill at the end of each quarter will reflect the actual reading, and this ensures that billing is 100% accurate over each quarter.
Starting later this year and through June, 2021, HBPW will upgrade existing meters with newer models that can be read monthly, and also read in cubic feet rather than gallons. Meter updates will come at no cost to customers.
What’s involved in a meter change?
There are about 4,000 meters included in this agreement, so HBPW staff will be conducting the upgrades over several months. When your neighborhood is scheduled, the HBPW customer service team will reach out to work with you in finding the right time for your meter upgrade.
Meter upgrades typically take about an hour and involve minor plumbing work inside and outside the home. Trained, professional HBPW staff and contractors will carry out the work, ensuring the meter is installed safely and correctly.
Due to health concerns with coronavirus, HBPW crews are carefully complying with social distancing and PPE requirements as set forward by the State of Michigan and CDC at all times. If you have concerns about an HBPW service technician entering your home, please wait until the scheduling process and work with customer care at that time to either delay or find a safe time to complete the work.
HBPW service technicians will never show up unexpectedly at your home.
What Park Township customers are affected by this?
Roughly half of Park Township water customers (about 4,000 meters) are affected by this change. Using the Park Township Water Systems Map as a reference point, these customers are those who reside in the green shaded area.
Customers south of Lake Macatawa are already covered by a full retail contract with HBPW, which is being added into this new agreement with no impact on rates or service. Customers in the “Consolidated System” region (customers who are currently billed by Holland Charter Township) will continue with billing and maintenance through Holland Charter Township.
How has this affected frontage and trunkage fees?
For developers and home-owners seeking new connections, Park Township will continue to manage the administration of frontage and trunkage fees.
How has this affected sanitary sewer billing?
There has been no effect on sanitary sewer billing. Park Township, Holland Charter Township and HBPW are exploring efficiencies in consolidating sewer billing for the affected area in the future. The agreement did not affect sewer rates.
What if I want to change my meter size?
In the switchover to upgraded meters, customers will automatically be fitted with a meter that matches their current size. If customers would like to reduce their meter size to lower their bill (e.g. reducing a 1” meter to ⅝”), we recommend evaluating your irrigation system flow requirements to ensure a smaller meter can support the required volume. There is no charge to reduce the size of the meter at the time of upgrade.
Customers may also use this switchover as an opportunity to install a larger meter (e.g. changing from a ⅝” or ¾” meter to a 1” meter). Charges for increasing the meter size include additional meter fees and costs for required plumbing changes.