Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Bellevue ‘charges off’ list of bad debts

Bond rate will affect some water and sewer past-due bills


By TONY EVANS
Express Staff Writer

Bellevue officials have decided not to turn past-due water and sewer accounts over to a collection agency pending separation of bills that have been assessed to properties that no longer have buildings on them.

Bellevue officials made plans in March to turn over about $50,000 in past-due water bills to a collection agency in the hope of balancing finances at City Hall. The agency would have taken 30 percent of all money collected. Some of the bad debts have been overdue for years.

"These debts are something you cannot be assured of collecting," City Clerk Dee Barton said.

On Thursday, Oct. 28, the council passed a resolution that will allow the city to "charge off" water or wastewater bills in arrears of 90 days or more, or bills that have been discharged by bankruptcy proceedings.

"This means we will take these bills away from our anticipated revenue," Barton said. "We will not depend on them to pay our day-to-day maintenance and operation costs."

Two weeks ago, the City Council approved a "bond rate" for sewer service accounts associated with lots that have had buildings removed or condemned. These property owners will have to pay the $18-per-month rate to help cover the cost of the city's wastewater treatment system.

The bond rate will be assessed retroactively to 2005, costing some ratepayers who are in arrears less than they owed previously.

Barton said 12 of the city's 900 water accounts would be assessed the bond rate.

The council also set a "circuit breaker" sewer rate of no more than $18 for ratepayers qualifying for the county's circuit-breaker tax relief program, which assesses discounted service rates for some residents based on income and age. Twenty city residents are currently paying the circuit-breaker rate.

In other Bellevue news:

-The council agreed to write off $2,500 owed by developer John Scherer for studies conducted during annexation proceedings in 2007.

-The council approved a yearly contract with Blaine County for law enforcement services for $370,534, which is $2,657 more than last year's contract. The contract provides for a marshal's position, three additional full-time officers and one full-time administrative position.

Tony Evans: tevans@mtexpress.com




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