Utility deposits will soon be uniform, with a set price charged residential customers, as well as commercial customers.
The Rockport City Council, at its regular meeting Tuesday, July 23, approved on first reading an ordinance making those changes. The council is expected to approve and adopt the new rates at its next meeting.
Deb Stephens addressed the council regarding the deposit she was asked to pay.
“I got slammed with a $450 deposit,” she said.
Stephens noted she was treated with respect when she brought the charge to the attention of city staff.
“I want to thank (Public Works Director) Mike Donoho and city staff (for the way they handled this issue). I encourage you to adopt a $150 deposit for all (residential) customers,” she said.
City Manager Kevin Carruth said Stephens brought the discrepancy in deposit charges for residential customers to the city’s attention.
He said staff looked at the way deposits are calculated and is presenting a new standard rate for residential and commercial customers.
The city currently determines a deposit by averaging two bills from a residence or commercial property, but specific months to be used are not outlined in the current ordinance, which makes the amount charged per deposit subjective.
Director of Finance Katie Griffin said residential deposits range from $30 to $450.
It was noted the current method of determining a deposit doesn’t take into account actual usage of the new customer, and does not use the same two months with each customer (i.e. – water consumption in the summer is generally much greater than in winter months).
Griffin noted the current ordinance does not say which two months are to be used.
The new deposit rate for residential customers will be $150. It will be $750 for commercial customers.
Griffin said the new rates are based on average bills.
“The way we do it now is really subjective,” she said. “It is not a positive experience for the customer or for us.”
Griffin noted city staff is looking at all fees to make sure they are fair and determined objectively.
Deposits are needed in those cases when customers either don’t pay and have to have service disconnected, or if a customers simply moves without paying his or her bill.
The bill can only be one month in arrears. If it is not paid each month, service is disconnected the 25th of the month after the bill is due.
Councilman Bob Cunningham asked if it is known how much the city will lose in revenue with the new rates.
Griffin said it can’t be determined accurately, but thinks it won’t be a big difference.
“It will be interesting to see the difference (after a year under the new rates),” said Cunningham.