Monday night, in a presentation to the Representative Town Meeting, Waterford Utility Commission Chairman Peter Green said 1,410 people, or 20 percent of Waterford account holders, are delinquent on their sewer bills.
"This is a big concern of the utility commission,” Green said. “We have a significant amount of delinquent accounts and a huge amount of delinquent dollars.”
As of December 31st, Green said account holders owed $821,378 in delinquent sewer payments - $629,584 in principal and $191,794 in interest. Green said all accounts that are 30 days past due are charged 18 percent annual interest, which is mandated by state statute. Additionally, per state statute, people pay must pay off all the interest before they can pay back the principal, Green said.
Green said 707 Waterford account holders are less than 120 days delinquent on their sewer bills, accounting for roughly $157,000 in outstanding costs. Another 703 Waterford account holders are more than 120 days delinquent on their sewer bills, accounting for roughly $664,000 in outstanding costs, Green said.
Attorney Nicholas Kepple, who serves as the Waterford Utility Commission’s lawyer and is charged with recovering the delinquent costs, said most of the people don’t pay because they can’t. Kepple said his office receives many calls from people who have lost their job, suffered a disability, have a sick child or some other “tale of woe” that prevents them from paying the bill.
“What we are finding is an awful lot of (delinquent account holders), especially the newer ones, are associated with the downturn in the economy,” Green said.
Increased Pressure on Delinquents
Right now, the commission uses Kepple’s law office to help them collect delinquent payments, Green said. They also put liens on the homes of each delinquent account holder in February, he said.
But Green said the commission is looking to find new ways to get delinquent account holders to pay their bill. The commission is reviewing several new methods, such as shutting off water to delinquent customers, seizing property from people who do not pay and even publishing lists of the people who do not pay online and in the newspaper.
Green said other members of the commission have balked at the idea of printing the names of delinquent account holders in the newspaper and online. However, he said he is not willing to let it go.
“I’m not willing to drop it,” Green said. “I think it might move some people to straighten out their accounts.”
Green also said the commission will look to make it easier for people to pay their sewer accounts. He said the commission is planning to make it possible for people to pay their sewer bills online and to pay them with a credit card or a debit card by the end of the year.