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Hagerstown late fee ordinance introduced

It's slated to be adopted next week after a formal vote at the council's June 18 work session

June 11, 2013|By HOLLY SHOK | holly.shok@herald-mail.com

The Hagerstown City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to introduce an ordinance that will impose a 10 percent fee on the city’s water and sewer customers who are late paying their utility bills.

The ordinance — which the five-member council began considering after several hundred utility customers were delinquent with their bills this spring — is slated to be adopted next week after a formal vote at the council’s June 18 work session.

It will take effect 30 days later.

Michael S. Spiker, the city’s director of utilities, has said a late fee notice would be sent to water and sewer customers 21 days after their quarterly bill is due. The late fee for one bill would not be compounded if a customer failed to pay the next bill, Spiker has said.

The late fee on a $100 bill would be $10, making the total bill $110, according to Spiker. But if a customer failed to pay his or her next bill 21 days after it was sent out, the total unpaid balance would be $220.

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At the June 2 work session at City Hall, councilmen Donald F. Munson, Lewis C. Metzner and Martin E. Brubaker said that if they agreed to impose the late fees, the city staff would need to work with customers who are delinquent on their bills.

Spiker said at the time the city will arrange payment plans to help delinquent utility customers.

Hagerstown, which has self-sustaining enterprise funds, is the only utility in a three-state region researched by the city staff that does not impose a late fee, Spiker has said.

The city has 38,000 sewer and water customers, and about 17,000 electric customers, according to Scott Nicewarner, the city’s information technology and support services director.

On the last day of March, 30 percent of water and sewer receivables — the total amount owed by customers — were delinquent by 31 or more days, according to an April 5 memorandum from Nicewarner to City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman.

The rate is expected to drop by 50 percent or more by midsummer because the accounts are billed quarterly and the city does not shut off service for nonpayment during the winter to avoid pipe damage, Nicewarner has said.

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