Council passes on proposal to change billing

Sean C. Morgan

The City Council rejected a proposal to change the monthly date for mailing delinquency notices for water and sewer bills.

The city currently sends out delinquency notices when bills have not been paid by the 15th of the month. Councilor Jeff Goodwin had proposed moving the date for two reasons.

First, he said, it is a waste of money to send notices to everyone who has not paid by the 15th. Many, like Goodwin, are on two-paycheck cycles and have to pay later in the month.

Customers are going to pay their bills, he said, and it’s a waste to send them a notice.

“We’re sending delinquency notices we don’t have to send,” Goodwin said.

Additionally, the notice is “threatening.”

Goodwin outlined his circumstances for September. He received his bill on Sept. 4. He gets paid on Sept. 15, and the money is in the bank for the water bill on Sept. 16, the day after delinquency notices are mailed.

The city sends delinquency notices to about 40 percent of its water and sewer customers, about 1,235, but ultimately turning utility services off to approximately 37 customers per month for not paying their bills, according to figures provided by Public Works Director Mike Adams. Fifteen percent of those have their water shut off on a monthly basis, while 54 percent have had their water shut off within the previous 12 months.

Some 10 percent of utility revenue comes in between the 15th and the 20th, Adams said.

After discussion last month, the Public Works Committee, including Greg Mahler and Ryan Underwood – member Dave Trask was absent – decided to recommend a new monthly date, the 20th, to send delinquency notices.

If the city could reduce the total number of delinquency notices by 25 percent, Adams said, it would save the city $125 per month.

But several times per year, a situation develops where customers would end up receiving delinquency notices after late fees and interest are applied to delinquent accounts, Adams said. That could be up to six times in the next year.

The notices are required in order to follow up on shutting off water to properties with delinquent accounts, Adams said.

Under those circumstances, Underwood told the rest of the council, he thought moving the date to the 20th would generate more problems than it solves.

The council chose to take no action on the recommendation and dropped the ordinance proposal.

Goodwin moved to send it back to committee, but the motion died for lack of a second.

Present at the meeting were councilors Marybeth Angulo, Underwood, Mahler, Trask, Bruce Hobbs and Goodwin.

In other business, the council:

n Held the first reading of an ordinance that would prohibit open containers of alcohol on public property.

n Appointed Andrew Allen to the Budget Committee, with a term expiring Sept. 22, 2018.

n Adopted ordinances vacating two different rights-of-way. The first was an alley located adjacent to A&W between Nandina and Main streets. The second was an area of Second Avenue in Foster. Neither have been developed.

Goodwin and Hobbs abstained from voting due to a conflict of interest.

n Adopted an ordinance revising the city’s fence code.

n Adopted an ordinance prohibiting the sale of recreational marijuana through medical marijuana dispensaries.

The legislature had passed a law allowing the sale of limited recreational marijuana through medical marijuana dispensaries beginning Oct. 1. The law allows local governments to prohibit the practice.

The council previously passed an ordinance, following a procedure outlined by the legislature, prohibiting new medical and recreational marijuana facilities. Sweet Home voters will decide in November 2016 whether to continue the prohibition.

n Adopted an ordinance prohibiting the use of alcohol in public parks and limiting smoking to designated areas.

n Adopted a design concept plan for Strawberry Park that includes playground equipment, a play field, a pavilion, a basketball hoop, restrooms, a grassy knoll, trails, an orchard and picnic area and a wetland area.

n Adopted a revised Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan with minor changes requested by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The plan is a prerequisite for hazard mitigation assistance from FEMA.