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Lathrop won’t cut off water, sewer during holidays

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POSTED November 10, 2017 1:03 a.m.

Those that have been struggling to pay their delinquent water bill may be an unexpected Christmas present this year courtesy of the City of Lathrop.
Every year since 1996 the Lathrop City Council has approved a resolution to suspend cutting off delinquent water users from the city’s system during the month of December to ensure that everybody has access to water and sewer during the holidays.
While the city essentially must collect enough money in rates to service the debt required to provide water and sewer to its 20,000 residents and growing, preventing the disruption during the holidays gives local families the opportunity to enjoy Christmas without having to worry about whether they’ll be able to turn on the tap or flush the toilet – delaying the process by a month.
And the gesture of goodwill won’t be without a little bit of investment on behalf of the entire community.
According to the staff report prepared for Monday’s Lathrop City Council meeting, the city has been cutting off water to roughly 118 delinquent customers every month – collecting about $7,100 in reconnection fees that will be forfeited for the month of December under the proposal.
The move also potentially increases the number of customers who fail to pay their bill on time as well as potentially increase the number of accounts that are ultimately sent to collections – something that city staff pointed out in its report to the council despite the recommendation to move forward with the plan as it has been historically implemented.
Every year city staff brings to council a set number of accounts that need to be “written off” – where attempts at soliciting payment and bringing the account current have failed for a prolonged period of time – and staff also pointed out that giving the one-month grace period could lead to a higher number of accounts included in the end-of-the-year proposal that has generated discussion at the council level each of the last two years it was before them.
Currently Lathrop utility customers are given a 60-day grace period for late fees as long as the account is caught up in the following month. With the resolution in place, that period will be extended to 90-days through the beginning of January before formal action will be taken on behalf of the city. 

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.

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