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Fathom goes out of business, ends contract with Copperas Cove after long list of issues

The Copperas Cove City Manager said the city has 2 weeks to decide how to manage its around 14,000 water utility account.

COPPERAS COVE, Texas — Some people in Copperas Cove had been complaining about high water bills, disconnection issues, web portal issues, and multiple other issues after the city outsourced its water utility services to a company called Fathom in 2017.

Some customers received upward of $400 to $1,000 invoices. Other customers were disconnected, even after paying their bills. 6 News addressed the issues with the city and the company in the past and the city said efforts were made to improve customer support.

The city is rushing to find a solution after learning the company will be going out of business. 

"For me personally it's very frustrating. For our staff, it makes them very concerned about what we need to do. How we need to continue service," Copperas Cove City Manager Ryan Haverlah said. "We had no expectation they were going to go out of business." 

Fathom handled 14,000 accounts for the city. Haverlah said they are anticipating having to find a way to manage the accounts by the end of November. With only 4 utility employees available to handle they accounts, the city will have to decide whether to hire additional employees or find and vet another company to offer the services Fathom provided.

According to a statement on the City of Copperas Cove Municipal Government Facebook page, "The City of Copperas Cove received email notification from FATHOM this past Saturday, November 9, 2019, that they will be going out of business." The email stated in part that 'Despite a massive effort this year, we [FATHOM] have not been able to secure an investment or additional debt to save our business.'" 

Haverlah told 6 News Wednesday the City of Copperas Cove had tried to maintain regular communication with Fathom and the possibility of Fathom going out of business had not come up. In August, investigative reporter Andrew Moore reported that the city struggled to keep up with connect and disconnect orders and sometimes installed meters incorrectly. 

Interim city manager,at the time, Ryan Haverlah, had been working with Fathom for two years to correct the issues. Haverlah said at the time that the city of Copperas Cove only had two technicians in the field to read meters, connect or disconnect customers. On Fathom's side, customers on autopay had been taken off, and then the customers had been sent disconnection notices. Customers were also sent bills in an irregular schedule and sometimes were disconnected after paying.  

RELATED: Copperas Cove contract with Fathom could strain city budget

Copperas Cove was locked into a 15 year agreement with the company according to their contract. Haverlah told 6 News in late July the city would eventually have to pay Fathom more for the volume of customers services calls that were taken each month. Now, however, they have an opportunity to get a new contract with another company. 

"There are some silver linings in this," Haverlah said. "This is a really good opportunity for us to provide excellent utility service to our utility service customers. We know that the service we have been providing with our partnership with Fathom has not been at the level our customers expect. We have an opportunity to turn that around."

Haverlah also assured 6 News there would be no service interruptions as a result of the separation with Fathom. Haverlah also said customers can continue to pay bills as normal and that the meters will be kept during the transitions. 

Copperas Cove is currently planing a town hall meeting on November 22nd to answer additional questions for customers. 

The city is asking utility customers to be patient and to not call the utility department with questions about the transition yet, as the solution is still being worked on at this time.  

RELATED: Copperas Cove takes action to correct water bill issues

RELATED: Fathom water bills still an issue in Copperas Cove, meter read 413,000 gallons used in 5 months

The city’s Facebook post on the separation with Fathom had nearly 300 comments and more than 350 shares.

 Many of the comments reflected happiness that Fathom’s services were ending.

“Fathom has always been a shady business. Now maybe we can get realistic water bills. I would call this great news,” Facebook user Timothy McGinnis said.

His comment received 63 likes.

RELATED: Channel 6 News investigation helps correct Fathom water bill

RELATED: Copperas Cove to audit Fathom utility bills after customers complain

Other users blamed the city for not properly researching the company before entering into a contract.

“This is what we get for letting the city make decisions without considering the populations (disapproval). The formality of holding hearings is a sham show. This is going to cost us unexpected money to reopen the community pay office. Oh, mark my words, this is going to cost us money!! Any insurance for bad moves??” Susan Challis posted.  

The city encouraged customers to continue making on-time utility payments. The city said it is working on a transition plan and that more details would be given later in the week.

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