Friday, Feb. 08, 2013
BOA approves bill to increase utility deposits
By Bethany Bashioum
The cost of maintaining utilities in Harrisonville will soon spike if a resident doesn’t pay their bill and gets disconnected.
The Harrisonville Board of Aldermen moved through a number of agenda items during their regularly-scheduled meeting Feb. 4 in a nearly two-hour meeting, including a bill proposed by the city’s Finance Committee.
Finance Director Mike Tholen said it has become a problem of residents leaving town without notice, with bills in excess of the deposits on file.
Tholen said it was his intention to address the issue without adversely affecting customers who maintain a good credit standing with the city.
The proposed solution had three components.
First, the bill introduced stated that utility deposits will be maintained as long as there is an active account or balance due on a closed account. Previously, the city refunded customer deposits after two consecutive years of on-time payments.
Tholen also said that the city has also began adjusting meter reading cycles to shorten the time between usage and billing by several days, slightly reducing the exposure to the city. Since no change in billing or payment cycle is occurring, the city is already implementing the change internally.
The final aspect of the bill drew criticism from multiple aldermen after Tholen asked the board to approve a $50 administration fee to the city’s existing $50 reconnection charge if a resident fails to pay their bill. The fee, which would essentially act as an additional deposit, which would be placed in a trust and used as a safety net should the utility customer walk away from their residence with unpaid debt.
“We have a number of people who have been on (the shut off list) repeatedly,” Tholen said. “It’s a way to increase deposits just for those people who haven’t been able to keep their end of the agreement.”
Tholen said the city annually writes off about $40,000 in bad debt.
After a lengthy discussion among aldermen, Tholen, Mayor Kevin Wood and Ward 3 Alderman Bret Reece proposed to amend the proposal by reducing the fee to $25, and limiting the city from charging the fee more than eight times, in which the board approved during the meeting.
In other meeting news, the board took the following action:
-Issued a proclamation to honor Career and Technical Education Month to students and staff of Harrisonville School District’s Cass Career Center.
-Heard a report from Harrisonville’s Bright Futures program led by coordinators Jill Filer and Jennifer Beavers.
-Approved a special event permit request for a community event on Thursday, Oct. 31, sponsored by Crossroads Assembly.
-Approved a purchase with Quaker Safety for the purchase of 12 new pairs of firefighter gear in an amount not to exceed $17,208.
-Approved payment for the refurbishing of an ambulance for $55,127.
-Approved a resolution to purchase meeting management software to provide better access to meeting notes and agendas for a monthly price of $480, as well as for the purchase of computer hardware for Commissioner members to access paperless agenda packets, not to exceed $9,000.
-Approved a resolution to execute an emergency water agreement between the City of Harrisonville and Public Water District No. 4.