Increase by city probable in May
Henderson’s City Council has agreed required utility deposit levels are likely to rise, but details of how much and when for commercial and residential accounts is still under discussion.
The council said further work is needed before decisions are made on the deposit increases to water and sewer service users. There was no decision on changes at Monday’s regularly scheduled meeting.
City Manager Ray Griffin said discussion would be added as a work session item to the agenda for the March 11 regular council meeting, but if council members wished to do so, they could also make decisions at that time.
A main concern to council members was for residential customers to receive adequate advance notice of changes. The council is considering being proactive through a communications campaign. The change is not expected before May.
Proposed so far would be essentially a doubling on deposits for residential water and sewer utility customers. Reductions had been made last year.
Deposits on residential accounts are proposed at $200 for customers outside city limits and $150 for customers inside city limits, up from $100 and $75, respectively. Also proposed is a grace period change from 10 business days to five.
“I feel that April is not enough time to implement the change,” Councilwoman Sara Coffey said.
Councilman Michael Inscoe said that commercial accounts would likely transition to higher deposits smoothly by May 1. Council members expressed favor of a June 1 timeframe for residential changes.
Commercial customers under the proposed changes would be set for a deposit amount equal to 2.5 times an average monthly bill, estimated at first and then adjusted after 90 days in the case of new customers.
New customers would also have the opportunity to demonstrate a good bill paying history to obtain a deposit waiver. Missed payments would, subject to the grace period, result in a deposit payment being required for service to be continued or reconnected if cut off.
Griffin agreed that a public information campaign may prevent a repeat of a problem that occurred last year when a large block of utility customers found changes that suddenly jeopardized their services.
“We missed a glitch on the grace period,” Griffin said, referring to a mistake that resulted in no set time for customers to correct accounts that fell behind on payments. “That also just happened to take place for the largest district we bill.”
Council members said a primary concern was not to see a repeat of significant aggravation among many residential customers.
“I just don’t want to be faced with that same situation again that happened before,” Councilman Michael Rainey said.
Griffin noted that commercial customers would likely make a transition to new deposit rates smoothly, and that would greatly reduce city risk of loss in cases of accounts closing with large sums of money still owed.
On the residential front, out of about 8,700 customers, it is about 460 accounts that have a problem, according to Griffin. He would like to see that number cut by about half, to achieve a rate of no more than 3 percent of accounts having problems.
Griffin said the increase in deposit amounts is needed to lessen the loss to city funding that inevitably becomes borne by paying customers.
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