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Council Adopts New Policies For City Utilities Services

By Sue Curry Jones

Council approved a resolution to strengthen the application process for new applicants securing services from the City of Ava Tuesday evening.

The proposed changes and new standards were discussed last month when Administrative Director Peggy Porter explained that a modification to the city’s utility deposit policy was needed to help protect the City and reliable good-paying customers from carrying the burden of those who do not act responsibly with city utility bills.

Porter noted “the city’s goal is to charge a higher deposit amount that will help offset account balances that are left unpaid.  The new system will also protect the City and everyone involved.”

According to Porter, the sum of nonpayment accounts is increasing, and over the last 18 months, the City has absorbed unpaid balances totaling over $50,000.  Therefore, the main focus of the new policy is to recoup money through higher deposits and tighter controls.

Under the system, the City of Ava will use an on-line service to verify the credit history of all utility applicants.  New applicant deposits will be based on a payment history score provided by a utility exchange service.  Deposits will be assigned as follows:

Credit scores deemed “good” will require a minimum deposit of $200; if the applicant is a water service only customer, the deposit is $50;

A credit score “fair” will require a minimum deposit of $300; or, for water only $75;

“Poor” credit will require a $400 minimum deposit, or a maximum of 3x the average utility bill amount; if water only, $100.

Under the new policy, applicants with an undetermined credit history will be considered a “fair” risk; and, for those with a valid co-signer, they pay the next lowest deposit amount.

The new policy also requires renters and landlords to provide a record of their agreement and who is  responsible for payment, the deposit, connection date and termination of the account.

In a 4-0 vote, the board approved the credit rating policy and deposit standards. It was estimated that it will be about two weeks before the system is up and running.

Sherry Wallace, director of parks and recreation, reported the park advisory committee had convened on Tuesday, Jan. 24.  Wallace said the committee is made up of seven volunteer members, but recently two members had resigned and to fill the slots, the committee recommended Terry Lee and Mindy Crandall as suitable candidates. Council approved 4-0.

Janice Lorrain, director of planning and development, said the city had requested USDA funding for the purchase of three new storm sirens costing $20,000 each, for a total of $60,000.  If awarded, the city’s match amount was $15,000.  However, Lorrain noted the odds for receiving the grant funding were not favorable.

Lorrain announced the city has been awarded a skateboard/restroom grant, and has until December 2014 to implement upgrades and use the funds.

Under the sidewalk program, she said the city is now advertising for bids.

In a 4-0 vote, monthly bills were approved for payment.

Aldermen present were Burrely Loftin, Judy Lovan, Ric Engelhardt and Bill Long.

The next council meeting will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 28, at Ava City Hall.