The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

April 10, 2013

Town council discuss utility delinquent deposit requirements


TARBORO — The Tarboro Town Council asked its staff to look into whether or not the town should change its utility delinquent deposit requirements. The question was asked Monday night during the town's regularly scheduled meeting.

Currently the first time an account is cut-off, a delinquent deposit has to be made that equals an average two months bill. Each time after, the deposit has to equal the two highest bills within the customer's 12-month period.

Town Councilman Taro Knight said he heard several complaints about the fees that have been a policy since 2006. Edgecombe-Martin County EMC is the only other neighboring utility that was listed in the agenda that has a similar rating. EMC policy charges delinquent customers that are tagged twice in a 12 month period, an additional deposit which has to equal two times the highest bill.

In other camparison, deposits were far lower than Tarboro's including Greenville Utilities and City of Wilson which do not require additional deposits.

"It puts a serious burden on poor people," Knight said. Unemployment rate in the state is 9.7 and in Tarboro it's 14.5. Their is a sizable population or our residents who are going through serious economic conflicts."

Knight explained that he would like to have a policy in place that will benefit customers who may have forgot to pay there bills or those who have been cutoff for the first time.  

Councilman Rick Page, former utility director for the town, said collection has always been and will always be a problem for the town. He suggested that the town charge first time delinquent customers a $25 deposit and $50 for the second time.

"But that has to stop somewhere he added. "At some point we have to say enough is enough."

Councilman Garland Shepherd seemed to have liked the old policy.

"The other side of the coin is that we're writing off $30,000 to $40,000 per year because people are not paying," he said. "If we have a strict policy already, by losing this policy, there will not be a higher collection rate."

Tarboro town manager, Alan Thornton told the board that he would look further into the matter and bring back his findings to the board's May meeting.

In another matter, two residents of the Lyndale Acres Community addressed the board about a house that they described as a nuisance. A fire destroyed the three bedroom structure at 706 Ward Drive on Feb. 26, 2012, and more than a year later, neighbors asked the town council why hasn't the house either been repaired or demolished. Douglas Andrews led the charge by presenting the council with a 37-named petition.

Josh Edmondson, town of Tarboro planner told the council that he is aware of the situation. Edmondson explained that the process of solving the problem is already in place.  

The owner was given 60 days to correct the violation or demolish the house, Edmondson said. That 60-day period expires May 6. If the requirements have not been meet, the issue will be forwarded to the town council on its May 13 agenda.  

Mayor Donald Morris asked the town attorney are there any methods to expedite the issue. Attorney Michael Brough said no.

A handful of Lyndale Acres residents attended the meeting. After the meeting was over, they were not satisfied with the answers.

"We are not pleased with the outcome," said, Phyllis Cullins. "We understand that there are certain procedures that must take place before anything can be done but this has been an issue for over a year now. 

“In previous conversations we were told that as long as a tarp was on the roof and the windows boarded up then it would be okay, but the issue with that is overtime the tarp will sag water will puddle in the middle which will attract mosquitoes. 

“Instead of being worried about who likes trees being cut down and who don't, lets make this issue priority instead of telling us this fell through the cracks and making us wait longer."

That comment was vented towards the council's 10 minute discussion about trees.