Starting next month, a utility bill in the city of Richmond Hill will come with an earlier deadline to pay it.
Richmond Hill City Council voted Tuesday night to move up the deadline for paying water/sewer bills to the 17th calendar day of each month. A late fee will be charged on the 18th, and the property’s water will be shut off if the bill is not paid by the 25th.
The payment and cutoff deadlines had been later than the 17th and 25th days of the month. The problem that created, according to City Manager Chris Lovell, was that late fees weren’t being assessed until a new billing cycle was beginning at the end of the month.
“The reason we’re doing all this is because 20-something-percent of our water bills are 60 days past due,” Lovell said.
The late fee will be $10 for bills not paid within 17 calendar days after the first of the month. Accounts not paid within 25 days will be disconnected and charged a $35 service fee. The charge to turn water back on after a shutoff also will be $35.
The other significant change City Council adopted to utility payment procedures is for the city to charge nonrefundable application fees instead of collecting refundable deposits.
The application fees will be $100 for residential customers inside the city limits and $150 outside the city limits, and $200 for commercial customers inside the city limits and $300 outside the city limits.
A first reading of the water/sewer bill revisions earlier this month had the 15th calendar day as the payment deadline. However, council members debated that at Tuesday’s meeting after Richmond Hill resident Del Turner spoke in favor of setting the 20th as the deadline.
“Give us 20 days to pay the bill, and if they don’t pay it, then cut them off,” Turner said to council. “Going after regular people just causes us more frustration. It’s not going to help you.”
Lovell encouraged sticking with the originally-proposed deadline of the 15th, saying “12 days is enough time” if customers receive their bills on the second or third day of the month.
City Council compromised between the two suggestions, voting unanimously to make the 17th the deadline.
“Then that gives them a full two weeks to pay their bill,” Councilman Russ Carpenter said.
The city began using a new billing company this month and experienced some glitches, according to Finance Director Bob Whitmarsh. Water bills were not sent out “until probably the 5th” of June, he said.
“It should be coming in the 2nd or 3rd (of the month) from now on,” Whitmarsh said.
The new payment deadline is effective immediately, but could potentially be changed again. Carpenter and Councilman John Fesperman both suggested evaluating its effectiveness after the next bills are sent.
“Let’s revisit this next month,” Fesperman said, “and see what our options are at that point, see if it’s really made a difference.”