Saluda purges $20k in past due utility bills

Published 5:11 am Friday, April 26, 2013

City currently owed $5,473 for both active and inactive accounts

The City of Saluda purged approximately $20,000 in past due water/sewer/garbage bills recently that were no longer collectable and was left with only $3,000 owed from inactive accounts.

As of April 19, the city was owed a total of $5,473 in both active and inactive past due bills.

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Saluda discussed its approximate $23,000 worth of owed utility bills during its April 8 meeting after resident Karen Bultman questioned if the city was following its policy.

The city’s $23,000 in past due bills included inactive accounts that were past the three years that the state allows the city to collect on water bills and past the four years the state allows the city to collect on sewer bills.

What was left includes approximately $3,000 in inactive accounts, or accounts that no longer receive service. Saluda City Clerk Monica Pace said the $5,473 list also includes a few active accounts that have had service suspended for non-payment and are awaiting final billing and the application of the deposit money held.

Pace said the list of past due amounts is a moving target as payments are being made. The delinquent amounts include charges for water, sewer, garbage and late fees. The city charges a monthly 10 percent of the total balance as a late fee.

The current past due amounts currently include 17 accounts that range from $101 owed to $1,016. The amounts include the 10 percent late fee added monthly.

Saluda’s policy states that if any charges shall remain unpaid on the 25th day after the due date of such charges, a late payment fee of 10 percent of the total unpaid balance will be applied to the account and will be applied without notice to the customer.

“If a bill is unpaid 60 days after the bill was due, a notice of termination shall be mailed to the customer,” states the policy. “This notice shall inform the customer that service has been ordered terminated and provide the anticipated date of termination.”

The policy goes on to say if a bill is unpaid five business days after the notice of termination is mailed, service shall be cut off by locking or removing the meter. The outstanding balance, plus all penalties and interest, shall be paid before water service is restored.

Of the outstanding balances all are from rental properties. One past due account is due from a property owner whose is between renters, according to city staff. Pace said all past due inactive accounts have been sent to the N.C. Debt Setoff program and the city is currently interviewing debt collection agencies to take over the past due collections. The city had a debt collector, which is no longer in service.

Saluda commissioners met for budget work sessions earlier this week and discussed possible changes to its policy. Discussions particularly included the possibility of shortening the time of disconnect and raising the deposit for renters from the current $100 to $150. Homeowners have a deposit of $50 inside city limits and $75 outside city limits with commissioners not discussing changing those rates due to most of the issues coming from renters.

Commissioners plan to further discuss changes during their May meeting.

Saluda joins Tryon in struggling with collecting past due utility bills. Tryon is also considering changing its policy after recently having approximately $38,000 overdue and at one point over the past couple years having a $99,000 outstanding balance. Tryon agreed this month to purge amounts no longer collectable and to actively pursue the amounts overdue.