Water deposits double to cover delinquency
Water bill deposits will increase from $75 to $150 for Orland customers who do not own the property where they live or run a business.
That is one change on the horizon to billing procedures planned by the city in an effort to improve collection of bad debt. The new policy will be in place by March.
The City Council approved the first reading of the revised ordinance Monday night and will give final approval on Jan. 7.
City Manager Pete Carr also said late fees will rise from $5 to $10 at the request of council members who felt the $5 fee was too small.
"The numbers speak for themselves," Councilman Bruce Roundy said. "A lot of staff time goes into it (collection and billing).''
Roundy called for the $10 late charge instead of the $5. He added the rest of the ordinance and revisions were very good.
The new procedures also will allow the city to send a delinquency letter before shutting water or sewer service office instead of putting a door knob notice at a residence, Carr said.
Liens also will be filed on properties where the owner is in default, he added, something the city did not do in the past.
It also will seek repayment through the State Franchise Tax Board for unpaid bills via an intercept program where the state will collect from a person's state income tax return.
"The state intercepts the refund and pays us first," Carr said, citing the example of a delinquent water user owing the city $200 after skipping out of the area.
If he or she has a refund of $1,000, the Franchise Tax Board will take $200 from it and pay it to Orland, Carr said.
Not many cities utilize this program, but it beats using a collection agency that normally takes 30 to 50 percent off the top, he said.
Orland also will end the practice of requiring new tenants or property owners to pay the bills of delinquent users before getting new service, the city manager said.
The council conducted a public hearing Monday on these changes but nobody spoke to them.
Carr said on Jan. 7, the council will be asked to approve accepting online payments and credit card payments from water and sewer customers.
He and staff have found a company that will handle this service without any cost to the city and a fee under $5 to the customer, Carr said.
Water users can pay via computer or go to the customer service window at City Hall and use a credit card to pay during times when they might be low on cash, he said.