Gulfport saving big bucks with utility changes

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - In this economy, everyone is looking for ways to keep more money on hand. The city of Gulfport is no exception and officials have found a way to cut several hundred thousand dollars.

"With the use of the technology and our new electronic water meters, that along with this bringing everything in house, we're expecting to save close to $400,000 in operating costs," said city official Ryan LaFontaine.

The city council has voted to change the city's utilities company.  South West Water Company has provided operating and billing services for several years,but the city has decided to switch operations to Utility Partners. Billing services will now be done in house.

"South west water has been a good ally for the city of Gulfport for a very long time. We first privatized it back in 2000, so there's a long history there of good working relationship," said LaFontaine on the city's relationship with the company.

By managing utilities billings in house, city officials say they not only save money, but they also create a one stop shop for residents.

"Eventually we want to get to a point where you have an all customer service, cash transactions in a central location. So, if you need a building permit or if you want to pay your water bill, you go to the same desk every time," said LaFontaine

Residents won't notice any short term changes to their utility rates.  Officials hope that in the long run, the money saved by this move will prevent future rate increases.

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