City Controller Alan Butkovitz contended yesterday that the Water Department and Water Revenue Bureau were not aggressively pursuing delinquent bills, saying the amount of nonpayments had increased to $132 million in 2009.
In a news conference, Butkovitz said outstanding delinquencies rose by $12 million from June 30, 2008, to June 30, 2009.
He blamed the rise on the Water Department's policy no longer sending crews out on weekends, when more people would be home, and to the Water Revenue Bureau's billing system and its seeming lack of aggressive collections.
A bill, sponsored by City Councilman Bill Greenlee, passed in 2007, prohibited shut-offs on Fridays and weekends. Greenlee said yesterday that he didn't think it fair for people to face shut-offs on days when it's been difficult for them to resolve payment issues.
He said his bill doesn't prevent collection efforts on those days.
But neither the Water Department nor the Water Revenue Bureau sends employees to homes to collect on accounts.
Revenue Commissioner Keith Richardson said yesterday that he wouldn't want employees from the Water Revenue Bureau, which is responsible for billings and collections, to knock on doors because it could be dangerous.
He also said it may not be worth it, considering overtime payments on nights and weekends.
He attributed the rise in delinquent payments mainly to the economy, with people out of jobs.
The shutoff crew from the Water Department, however, will take a check or money order from a delinquent customer when it goes to a house, spokeswoman Laura Copeland said. But, again, the crews don't work weekends.
Butkovitz also contended that the Water Revenue Bureau's billing system is flawed, despite a new system being implemented in January 2008, saying this also contributes to the agency's inability "to reduce its long list of outstanding delinquencies."
Richardson disagreed with this, saying the new billing system "is working better" than when first implemented.
With regard to a recent CBS 3 report on city employees' failing to pay their water bills, Butkovitz said he believed the city could go after them, including by garnishing their wages.