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BREAKING NEWS

Unpaid city bills going on tax rolls

By Staff | Nov 29, 2008

It’s that time of the year when city councils can submit bills for unpaid services in the past year to the Faribault County auditor’s office.

Winnebago and Blue Earth officials recently approved a list of “uncollectibles” to be added to 2009 property taxes as special assessments.

Twelve utility bills totaling nearly $4,100 were not paid in Winnebago and an additional $625 in lawn mowing charges was owed.

In Blue Earth, $2,580 for mowing, property cleanups and other “public nuisance” ordinance violations was considered delinquent. Another $803 was written off as uncollectible.

Dana Gates, chairman of Winnebago’s utilities committee, says the city has a process in place to notify residents their bill is past due.

He says every effort is made to avoid shutting off one’s water.

“They do everything in their power to collect overdue bills. I think they do a pretty good job,” Gates says.

City Administrator Jennifer Feely says anyone having their water turned off must pay their bill in full and are charged a special hookup fee.

Records at the county auditor’s office show “special assessments” for Blue Earth and Winnebago will be less this time around.

For 2008, Blue Earth had a total of $6,300, while Winnebago’s was $9,028.

The amount for Wells will increase from $3,083 this year to $3,880 for 2009.

City officials say some owing money may have paid before their bill was sent to the auditor’s office. Today is the deadline for cities to submit any “special assessments.”

Under the Blue Earth resolution recently passed, property owners will make equal annual installments for one year. An interest rate of 6 percent will be charged and payments will begin on or before the first Monday in January 2009.

Ken Wessels of Blue Earth Light and Water says the utility does not send past due accounts to the county. Rather, they are sent to a collections agency.

“They get lots, and lots and lots of notices before they are shut off. If they want their water or electricity back on they have to pay what they owe in full,” says Wessels.

Laurie Oelke, also of Blue Earth Light and Water, says this year more people are needing help to pay their utility bill.

Oelke says residents may contact Minnesota Valley Action Council, the Salvation Army or Human Services about financial assistance.

“Most of the time we are willing to work with people who make an effort to pay their bill,” she says. “We try to help. We cover all avenues, because we don’t want to leave people out in the cold.”