The new year may bring a new way to pay sewer bills for Clinton residents.

Internal Operations Committee members Tuesday approved the city finance department to investigate switching over to monthly billing for sewer fees, instead of the current three-month cycle. The committee set a target implementation date of Jan. 1, 2011.

City Administrator Jeff Horne said residents will benefit from the move.

“We must improve the collection rates,” Horne said. “This will be beneficial to the entire community.”

Because of the long-term control plan in accordance with Environmental Protection Agency regulations on the city of Clinton’s sewer system, Horne said the city must be more stable with collections.

Also, with the 10-percent sewer bill increase slated for July, most residents would be hard-pressed to afford the new bills on a quarterly basis, Horne said.

Discussions regarding monthly billing have lingered for years, and if the new system takes off in January, Horne said the billing will be less expensive. The city will mail bills out as a postcard, instead of issuing a letter and a return envelope.

The process will be contingent on how it works with the software employed by the finance department. The bill will be reflected as budget billing, based on Iowa American Water Company’s meter reading.

Without assurance by Iowa American Water to read the meters every month, the city of Clinton will not use the local water company as a source for sewer bills.

Horne has been talking with the water company about outsourcing sewer billing because the city can’t shut off sewer access to delinquent users.

Not being able to shut off sewer/water access can lead to high bills some residents don’t want to pay. The city does not have the capability of shutting off a home’s water. If the city outsourced the bills to Iowa American Water, then properties with delinquent sewer bills could see the water turned off in their residence.

However, Horne said Iowa American Water, which asked for $130,000 to start the program, would not agree to billing residents monthly.

IOC members also discussed a cut-off date for landlords to apply for a sewer-bill credit for bills distributed in 2005 and 2006. Landlords will have until Sept. 30 to notify City Hall with proof that they were charged for outstanding sewer bills in those years. The council adopted a forgiveness plan in December for landlords who received unpaid bills for tenants in 2005 and 2006.