City confirms there is policy for water shut off

Published 9:26 pm Tuesday, April 22, 2014

It was revealed last week that the Bainbridge city manager had been severely delinquent for paying water, gas and other city utility bills for his last three years in office.
City Manager Chris Hobby paid one lump sum payment in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and his water was not shut off, but according to an official city policy, his services should have ceased upon non-payment.
Last week Bainbridge Mayor Edward Reynolds told The Post-Searchlight there was no official written policy concerning the interruption of services due to non-payment that he was aware of. But city officials also stated repeatedly the city takes a liberal stance on not shutting off services and working with residents to help them keep their utilities on.
“We did originally say that there wasn’t a policy because we weren’t even aware that one was in there, because (the policy) does not represent our general practice,” Hobby said. “We are constantly working with people on deferments, on payment plans, on a lot of things that are not included in that policy that we do as standard practice.”
The official policy states that if city utility bills are not paid within a 10-day period, a penalty of 10 percent of the amount of the bill will be added and also collected, (Sec. 82-3A)
The policy goes on to note that if any customer, “shall fail or refuse to pay his bill or any part thereof within 15 days after delivery to the post office, his deposit may be applied in payment of the unpaid balance on his bill, and his connection to the water and gas system shall be shut off until such time as all past due bills, together with a service charge.”
Hobby said apart from the city working with people before their services are cut off, his situation of being one year behind in water and gas payments was never discussed between he and other employees.
“It just never was talked about,” Hobby said. “It never happened. And so it just wasn’t a conscious thing I don’t think.”
Hobby said he does not believe his status as city manager played a role in his services not being shut off because there are other city employees that are in similar situations and behind on bills.
“There are other employees that were also (in this situation) at the same time.” Hobby said. “They were several months behind and those employees have since caught up. I’m on a payment plan now, but as it turns out I was not the only employee that had that same problem. At the time in September of this year there were four employees including myself that were fairly close to that situation.”
Hobby said the city works with those employees as they bring their balance to zero.
As for how the official policy in place will be enforced, Hobby said he would imagine the city council would bring up the codes for discussion and even codify some of their standard practices for working with residents before utilities are shut off.

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