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Thurmont to toughen collection guidelines

(10/16)  As the economy has worsened, it has become harder for the Town of Thurmont to collect payments for water, sewer and electricity that it has provided to residents. If too many residents default on their payments, the town will find it increasingly harder to provide those services to other residents.

Faced with this problem, Chief Financial Officer Bill Blakeslee put together a list of options the town as to improve its collections.

“It sounds onerous but we’re not going to improve our collections if we don’t do something like that,” Blakeslee said during a recent town meeting.

While the town is willing to work with residents who are delinquent in their payments, Blakeslee noted “the efforts to pay in a lot of cases are not catching up to what they owe.”

Among the options are:

  • Make 50 percent of the past due bill paid to avoid disconnection and 25 percent must be paid one month later and the final 25 percent one month. After that, the customer’s current bill must be paid in addition to the preceding.
  • Disconnecting homes of delinquent accounts during the winter months after the appropriate filings with the Public Service Commission.
  • Putting unpaid water/sewer bills will be submitted for tax sale in March with the sale to occur in May.
  • Doubling the security deposit required for renters.
  • Publishing the list of delinquent customers.
  • Notifying customers with a past due notice or disconnection notice.

“None of these things are very nice,” Blakeslee said. “None of them are very pleasant, but they will improve our collections.”

Mayor Martin Burns said he believed that if the town could enact a system to accept credit card payments, the number of delinquent accounts would shrink.

Though Commissioner Ron Terpko said he had a problem with some of the options, he added, “I think we need to have this implemented as soon as possible.”

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