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Lathrop won’t turn off delinquent water users during holidays

For more than 20 years the Lathrop City Council has opted not to turn off the water for people who are delinquent on their payments during the month of December as a gesture of goodwill during the holiday season.

And they will do the same this year.

The Lathrop City Council voted unanimously – with Councilman Steve Dresser absent – to extend the program another year with the stipulation that accounts that are not paid in full by the end of 2018 will be assessed a 10 percent late fee as the balance rolls over into 2019.

While the vote was somewhat of a formality for the council, at least one portion of the staff report stood out to resident Craig Weis, who took issue with the fact that the city takes in approximately $7,100 every month in reconnection fees.

According to Weis, charging people who are obviously having financial problems $60 and then accruing a balance like that – last year Lathrop averaged 118 disconnections every month – doesn’t seem like the most prudent thing for the city to do.

His suggestion of taking the money that is generated by the reconnection fees and donating it to a non-profit that can actually help people who are struggling, however, didn’t materialize into much of a discussion after it was pointed out by City Manager Steve Salvatore that since the fee is associated with the water fund – which is an enterprise fund, meaning that the money can only be used on things related to the fund itself – it can’t be taken out and applied anywhere else.

Lathrop’s Finance Manager Cari James pointed out to Weis that the roughly $7,100 that the city takes in every month goes straight back into the water fund, and that money is applied to help keep rates lower for every ratepayer in the city – something that Weis scoffed at as he walked away from the lectern.

But the city isn’t always able to collect on all of its outstanding debts.

Earlier this year the council voted to write off more than $21,000 in delinquent payments – which, when sent to collections, returned only $268. That write-off amount was down from the more than $35,000 that they wrote off the previous year, and that number was down from the $44,111 that was written off the year before that – establishing a trend.

The disconnection of water for delinquent accounts will continue in January for those who have not met their financial obligations.

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.