The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

April 26, 2013

Council looks to write off bills

By Katie Dahlstrom Herald Staff Writer
The Clinton Herald

---- — CLINTON — The latest wave of landlords to receive their former tenants’ unpaid 2005 to 2006 sewer and solid waste bills will be absolved of financial responsibility as the city of Clinton attempts to write off the debt.

In 2009, the council passed a resolution forgiving landlords from the debts associated with utility bills from 2005 to 2006 that were renter related. Because of a software switch the city made during this time, bills weren’t issued for several months. At the time, the city also did not issue duplicate bills to inform landlords of their tenants charges and many were not aware of any outstanding bills their tenants might have had.

“If their renter had moved before they got billed, then essentially they were left with a bill that they couldn’t collect on at that point,” Interim City Administrator Jessica Kinser told city council members during their Committee of the Whole meeting Tuesday night.

A 2010 revision to this resolution specified that landlords had until Sept. 30, 2010 to request these bills be waived.

As of Sept. 30, 2010, $25,719 had been written off related to renters unpaid utility bills. Of that, $19,520 was related to sewer, $4,044 to solid waste and $2,153 to penalties.

At-large Councilwoman Jennifer Graf pointed out the the amount related to this forgiven debt was not near the amount of delinquent sewer bills the city is owed.

“Although I think a little over $25,000 — almost 26 — is a lot of money to me, that still does not reach that $2 million that has been stated that we have in debt inccurred in sewer billing,” Graf said.

Some landlords are just now receiving notices of the unpaid bills because of the city’s latest software switch, prompting them to seek relief from the city.

During the Internal Operations Committee meeting last week, two landlords came forward with letters notifying them of $184 in unpaid balances, collectively.

The committee agreed to waive the fees and forwarded a request that the council remove the date limitation from the current resolution, leaving discretion to waive fees from landlords that have yet to come forward with the city administrator or finance director.

The debt associated with this latest release of unpaid renter bills from 2005 to 2006 could be up to $3,234. Kinser did not have a breakdown as to what was related to sewer, solid waste and penalties and staff still needs to investigate if the rental properties were registered rentals when the debt was incurred.

A landlord who already paid bills that fell into this forgiveness period could also receive a refund with proof of payment.

“Ultimately we’re trying to get those figures off the books. If writing it off is the way we do it, then that’s the way we do it. It’s ultimately up to your direction now,” Kinser advised.

Council members unanimously voted to send the revised resolution forward to the city council for final approval.