Herald Journal - Enterprise Dispatch - Delano Herald Journal
Darwin City Council adopts utility shut-off policy

Feb. 9, 2009

Shut-off notices to be sent out for those 60 days past due

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

A new policy addressing delinquent utility bills was passed by the Darwin City Council Tuesday after a landlord raised concerns about being assessed for a former tenant’s $866 utility bill.

Patricia and Mike Even own the property at 613 North First Street and were recently billed for a former tenant who left without paying the $866 utility bill.

Pat Even claims she never received notice from the city at the time that her tenant was past due, nor that the water would be shut off, which was the reason for the tenant moving.

Even asked the city why her tenant’s bill was allowed to get that high before water was shut off.

Even also wondered what the city’s policy was for water shut-off for delinquent accounts.

Carmen Kolar, city clerk, explained that part of the reason the bill was so high was because it included electricity charges from before Meeker Cooperative took over billing.

Mayor Orlan Cervin said that if a utility bill is past due, both the tenant and the landlord should be given notice.

Kolar explained that with the current billing software, only one name is allowed on an account and that she was unaware of who owned the building before contacting the county assessor’s office.

“It doesn’t keep the previous name in the database,” she said.

Kolar also added that the previous tenant was making arrangements to pay the bill before the water was shut off in August, and before the tenant gave notice of moving.

Even said that if she had known her tenant was not paying the utility bill, they would have evicted the tenant for being in violation of the lease, and the bill wouldn’t have been allowed to accrue.

After stating her case, Even asked that the council consider some reasonable arrangements so that she would not be assessed for the previous tenant’s utility debt.

The council agreed it would take the responsibility of collecting the past due amount so that Evens wouldn’t be assessed.

“It’s hard to make the landlords responsible if they didn’t have notice,” Cervin told the council.

It was also suggested Kolar switch over the utility billing from its current software to QuickBooks, allowing her to have a primary and secondary account for rental properties.

This is to ensure that both the tenant and the landlord receive any past due notices and water shut-off notices.

The council also created a water shut-off policy for past due accounts which states that if an account is 60 days past due on the 15th day of the month, a notice will be sent out on the next working day.

Shut-off will take effect 10 days after the notice was sent if payment is not made in full.

In order for reconnection to take place, the account must be paid in full including a $200 reconnect fee.

Council member Lee Peterson suggested the council take a half-hour out of each council meeting to review current policies.

Option-to-purchase agreement in works

Kolar spoke with Will Dolan from Dolan and Besser in regards to an option-to-purchase agreement for five acres of land owned by Phyllis Johnson for a new pond.

The council advised Kolar to work with Dolan on the language of the agreement and have a letter sent to Johnson discussing the agreement.


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