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Littleton may ease penalty for late sewer payments

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By Emile Hallez

Residents would be granted a five-day grace period for late sewer and storm-drain payments under a measure the Littleton City Council is considering.

Late fees would also be reduced from 25 percent to 15 percent, or by about $23 for Littleton residents outside of sanitation districts, a change driven by customer complaints about unusually high fees and an unforgiving deadline.

Residents paying on Aug. 16, only a day after the yearly due date, have faced late fees of up to $58.25 on sewer bills of $233.02. And those paying more than two months late have also faced an additional 10 percent administrative fee, making the total late fee up to 35 percent of the bill.

“Twenty-five percent is probably more than the cost of us to provide the service,” City Manager Michael Penny said of the current late fee. “We felt like that 15 percent does cover that cost … as well as to incentivize people to pay.”

Only 8 percent of the city’s 52,000 customers fail to pay their bills on time, and the most frequent critics of the current policy are only a day or two late in sending their payments, city staff said. Two-thirds of the Littleton’s customers live outside the city, making payments for water treatment after it is flushed down pipes or swept into storm drains, with treated water piped into the South Platte River.

The city would collect about $92,000 less in annual late fees if the measure passes, staff said.

Since the city does not provide water to its customers, it cannot threaten to shut off taps if customers don’t pay their bills, finance director Doug Farmen said, explaining why late fees have typically been higher than those of other jurisdictions since 1982.

To further encourage customers to pay fees on time, the city is sending out bills in mid-May this year — a month earlier than usual. And the city is also sending three-installment payment coupons with bills, an attempt to educate the public that the city takes incremental payments ahead of the due date.

“What we’d like to do for 2013 is send out bills in December,” Farmen said. “We’re just trying to be a little bit more customer friendly.”

 

Contact Emile Hallez at emile@evergreenco.comor 303-933-2233, ext. 22.