The city of Marysville is taking the reins on a slippery situation, and it may be a rude awakening for some people.
Starting Thursday, Aug. 14, the city will start to enforce service disconnection for residents who are delinquent on their combined water-sewer-trash bills.
Nearly a quarter of the city's residents are behind on that bill, and officials say it has to stop.
Marysville Mayor John Gore said it's all about consistency.
"One of the things I said in April of 2011 was that my goal is to run the city of Marysville like a business, and that's what we're trying to do. We're trying to be consistent. We're trying to be fair. We're trying to provide quality customer service," Gore said.
City administrators said in the past, residents who were late paying their bill would call daily to find out if they were on the disconnect list, waiting until the last minute to make a payment.
Now, residents can no longer call in; city officials said they should simply expect to be on the list.
Bills for the month of June were due July 31. Delinquency notices were sent Monday, Aug. 4. Delinquent bills are due Tuesday, Aug. 12, and include a 5 percent penalty. If a bill is not paid Aug. 12, the city will add a disconnection processing fee of $25. Water disconnects will take place Aug. 14.
City offices will close as usual at 5 p.m. Aug. 14, but phones will be open until 9 p.m. for residents who want to make a credit-card payment to have their water restored that night. The city's main and utility department number is 937-645-7350.
Service will be restored upon full payment of the past-due bill and a reconnection fee of $25.
Gore said the city is dedicating a lot of resources Aug. 14 to deal with the issue.
Jenny Chavarria, city finance director, said the disconnects are very labor-intensive.
"We don't want to do them any more than people want to be disconnected," Chavarria said.
"It's not about making life miserable for you. It's about paying for the utility and about making sure we're able to deliver the water, the sewer and the trash that we've committed to do. It's also the operations of the business. It's just like a business. We just want you to know, we're going to become more aggressive in the process," Gore said.
Nancy Myers, assistant finance director, said it's difficult to pinpoint how much late utility bills cost the city due to customers who might pay just the minimum to keep the water on, but fail to pay the whole bill.
City administrators said other communities the size of Marysville typically have 3 to 5 percent of customers eligible for disconnection monthly. Marysville's percentage is much higher.
For example, there are 7,400 utility customers in Marysville. Delinquency notices went to 1,700 customers Aug. 4. That amounts to 23 percent of utility customers who are delinquent on their bill.
The city used to deliver blue courtesy reminder tags to delinquent homes. Now, delinquency notices will be sent by mail only.
"We always try to explain the disconnect fee and things like that in the community information. A lot of complaints I've had is, 'I don't read my bill,' or 'I don't read the paper' or 'I don't read the website,'" Myers said.
"We expect that there will still be some delinquencies. There are legitimate issues that people have and this is not intended to go after those (people)," Gore said.
"We're trying to be consistent with everyone in the neighborhood. We believe with that consistency, we'll get back to the 2 to 3 percent average," Chavarria said.
"I think that as we continue to be consistent and fair and offer quality service, we're going to see success for the community," Gore said.
"We're trying to be consistent. We're trying to be fair. We're trying to provide quality customer service."
-- JOHN GORE