The City of Port Lavaca is ready to generate and mail utility bills, after a five-month stoppage due to a malware attack.
The city’s computer system fell victim to a malware attack on Feb. 3, which completely disabled the utility billing system.
The malware attack on the city’s computer system was not a computer or software issue, but it wiped out data stored on the server.
“I think many people thought that it was a computer or software issue and didn’t understand why it would take so long to replace these things. We lost the last 12 months’ worth of billings for over 5,000 accounts. We lost names, addresses, meter numbers, locations, etc. To recover all this data, to a point we could again generate bills, took hours and hours of labor to sort through piles and piles of hard copy records and daily reports. Then any additions, deletions, or corrections to accounts that had been made over those 12 months had to be found and keyed in again,” Interim City Manager/City Engineer Jody Weaver said.
After the long battle to straighten everything out, the city is excited to let customers know that the lost data has been restored to the point where utility bills can be generated again.
Weaver said when customers receive their first bill, which will cover water consumption in January and February, they will see a credit balance.
“Each month’s bill will reduce that credit balance. If, after the six bills have debited there is still a credit balance, it will go toward future water bills. If a balance owed is shown, it will be owed,” Weaver said.
The city will offer to work out payment plans with customers that have, for whatever reason, ended up with a large dollar amount due. In addition, the city will not be assessing late fees or disconnecting water service until things get back to normal.
Port Lavaca’s customers are divided into three zones, and customers in the first zone will receive the bills for the January and February water consumption around the middle to the latter part of next week. Subsequent zones and monthly bills should follow soon after, according to Weaver.
Customers are asked not to be alarmed if there is incorrect information on the bill. If there is, please call 361-552-9793.
“It is important to understand that the City has not and is not accessing any late penalties or turning water service off due to non-payment,” Weaver said. “We are drafting a letter which will accompany the first bill and be posted on the city’s website and Facebook page. The letter will try to answer as many of the questions we anticipate customers will have and provide an email address and phone number to call for additional questions and information.”