Utility bills to come out of Fort Frances

Utility bill information for Fort Frances residents will continue to be gathered and entered by local Civic Centre staff.
The information then will be sent to Thunder Bay Hydro to be processed for the billing with that company’s software.
The printing of the bills also has been done in Thunder Bay but with the improvement of printing capabilities, the billing information is expected to be returned to Fort Frances and printed here within the next few months.
“Some time ago, we identified the fact that our current software has some shortages in it with regards to what a new bill would have to look like with deregulation,” explained Mark McCaig, CEO of the Fort Frances Power Corp.
A number of smaller municipalities across Ontario also are turning to bigger centres with software capable of handling deregulation rules–rules that were introduced within the last year.
“Currently, Sioux Lookout, Dryden, and ourselves are getting our bills done in Thunder Bay and there are several smaller utilities in Northwestern Ontario that are looking to Thunder Bay,” McCaig noted.
It is not expected that the software will be installed in Fort Frances anytime soon, or that any of the information gathering or entering will be done in Thunder Bay as indicated in last week’s Times.
The biggest hurdle for existing software was de-bundling the billing information as required as part of deregulation by 2002.
The bill then will list individual cost breakdowns, including distribution, transmission, taxes, the debt recovery charge, and the actual price of the commodity.
“Eventually, we will require that and the software here could not produce an unbundled bill,” said McCaig, who added that de-bundling is being fine-tuned and should be on Fort Frances bills within the next two months.
Although the latest bill was printed in Thunder Bay, it is to be returned and paid in Fort Frances. The next bill will be both printed and mailed out of the Fort Frances office.
Meanwhile, a provincial increase in the wholesale cost of hydro of 0.7 cents per kwh has meant an increase of 0.493 per kwh on the retail side here as announced earlier this summer.
That increase was implemented by the province June 1 and was included in the July utility bill.
The increase was lower in Fort Frances because of a long-standing power agreement with the Abitibi-Consolidated mill while many other provincial hydro companies have laid the entire 0.7 cent increase on customers.