FATHOM, the water billing contractor that Menlo Park Municipal Water has worked with for the past nine years to read water meters, bill customers, collect bills and provide customer service, has gone out of business suddenly, leaving the city scrambling to find a new contractor.
The water billing company alerted the city of Menlo Park on Nov. 9 that it would be going out of business at the end of the month.
The only explanation the city was given was a brief statement from the company that said, "Despite a massive effort this year, we (FATHOM) have not been able to secure an investment or additional debt to save our business," Christopher Lamm, Menlo Park's assistant public works director, said in an email.
Despite the business' closure, customers who receive water from Menlo Park Municipal Water will continue to receive water; the change in billing services is not expected to impact water delivery to homes or businesses, according to the city website.
Households that received their water bill for November should pay the bill, as usual, by the due date. The last bills from FATHOM were mailed on Nov. 15.
Households that have not received a water bill should not be alarmed: Their water meter will continue to track water usage, and bills will be issued when a new billing system is in place, according to the city. However, the bill may cover a longer-than-normal reporting period. Customers will not incur late penalties, the city said.
Households wishing to cancel automatic payments should call FATHOM at 650-330-0385.
After receiving the notification, Lamm said, city staff immediately started researching options for obtaining the same services provided by FATHOM, talking to other agencies in California that were impacted by the shutdown, and meeting with a number of potential vendors in person and via video conferencing, he said.
"We anticipate entering into two separate agreements with contractors this week or next to fulfill the full range of services provided. There will still be some work that needs to be performed before new bills can be issued and we hope to be able to provide an update on the timeframe for those activities next week," Lamm told The Almanac in an email.
"In the meantime, we want to make it clear that water will continue to be delivered to the home or business of every customer and that no disconnections or penalties will be incurred during the transition between billing contractors," he added.
Menlo Park Municipal Water provides water, purchased from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, to two main areas of Menlo Park: the Sharon Heights area and the portion of the city east and north of El Camino Real. It serves about 16,000 residents at 4,000 service connections.