Water deposit may rise for renters
Renters might have to pay a $150 deposit to hook up to water service in Orland — a $75 increase.
That change and others will be part of public hearings on Orland's municipal water billing procedures. The moves are aimed at getting late account holders to pay up.
The City Council took no action Monday night but discussed recommendations made by City Manager Peter Carr and his staff.
Among those is the $75 increase in the service deposit paid by renters when applying for service. Homeowners are not charged the fee.
Carr said the deposit is refundable after a year of good credit history, but the $150 figure would come closer to covering city costs for those who skip out on late bills after 60 to 90 days.
That is based on the average bi-monthly water and sewer bill of $65, he said.
Carr also proposed putting liens on properties where homeowners leave town after a foreclosure to try and get the city's bill paid when the home sells.
Nonpaying renters could be tracked down through a state Franchise Tax Board inter-agency intercept program that would seek payment from their state income tax returns, Carr said.
This is less costly than using a collection agency, which normally takes 20 to 30 percent of the fees recovered, he said.
Another change is the elimination of a door handle notice put on before the water is shut off.
Carr described this as time consuming and unnecessary since a final notice sent by mail could do the job.
Eliminating the requirement that a new customer pay off the bill of a previous customer before water service can be turned on also is in the proposal, Carr said.
Finally, Carr asked for a code change that would allow the city to "write off" bills that are unpaid after 180 days or more since it is unlikely that money will be recovered.
The city has no way to eliminate that bad debt from its system, Carr said, which accounts for about $7,800 at this time.
Out of 2,600 water customers, 600 are late each billing cycle, Carr said, although most do pay accounting for around $3,600 in late and reconnection fees per billing cycle that offsets collection costs.
An average of five customers are shut off each billing cycle, he reported.
Outstanding bills for 60 days presently total $8,000, and $900 is owed for 120 days, officials said.
Before the city can implement the lien and intercept programs, the council must approve that method, Carr said.
Council members also asked about increasing new hook-up fees for habitually late payers.
City Treasurer Pam Otterson said they must pay outstanding bills before they can hook up at a new address.
"I've been involved in this through tenants," Councilman Bruce Roundy said. "There is a culture of people who habitually abuse the system. They go to a new place and do the same thing."
City Attorney Greg Einhorn said the city could increase the deposit for those who have not paid in the past.
"I'm glad there is an avenue to do that," Roundy said.
Councilman Dennis Hoffman also asked if the city would begin using electronic billing.
Staff is working on that now, Carr said, but has not identified a service provider at this point.