By Jeanne Starmack
The city will try to collect about $200,000 in overdue water bills in September, said city administrator Lew Jackson.
City councilwoman Juanita Rich, who heads council’s Public Utilities and Waterworks Committee, said some delinquencies are “$500, $700.”
“There’s no reason for this,” she said Monday. “[The city needs] to start collecting those bills.”
The delinquencies in question are from current, active water accounts, she said.
There are accounts, she said, that are always behind.
“They’d pay a little on past bills, but they’d never catch up,” She said. “You can’t continue to do that forever.”
Jackson said the city sends 30-day shut-off notices to water customers who have at least $50 past due, but some people will pay only part of their bill and avoid the shut-off. The unpaid portions accumulate, he said.
He also said that some of the higher delinquencies Rich noted are because of broken water pipes, and he is working with people on those accounts.
Jackson said the city will run a notice in a local newspaper and on public access TV Channel 19 that people whose water accounts are delinquent must pay them by a certain date, or the city will shut off their water. He believes the date will be sometime in mid- September.
He said the notice will not include delinquent- account-holders’ names and addresses on the advice of the city’s law director.
Jackson said that the last time the city attempted to collect water-bill delinquencies was in April 2009, but he would like to run the notice every six months from now on.
Still, he said, there are people who have legitimate hardships.
“You almost have to go on a case-by-case basis,” he said.
The average water bill increased from $50 to $60 a month to $70 to $80 a month when rates went up in January 2009, he said.
Jackson said people should realize that their water bill also includes garbage pickup, storm-water management and sewer bills, and that’s why it might seem higher than water bills in other communities.