Here are some of the top stories we’re following for Tuesday, June 8, 2021.
The city resumed water service shutoffs Wednesday to encourage delinquent customers to pay up after a 15-month suspension of the efforts to reduce the financial burden during the pandemic.
Wilmington officials said the disconnection warnings are effective at encouraging chronically delinquent property owners to contact the city and set up a payment plan or pay their balance in full.
In fact, the overall past due amount has declined since 2019, from $40.2 million to $27.7 million currently, said city finance director Brett Taylor. The figures include the principal and interest accrued.
Before the pandemic, when a customer received a service shutoff notice, nearly half to two-thirds contacted the city to address the delinquent bills, Taylor said.
“We went from (collecting) $1.5 million, down to almost $700,000 a month because we didn’t have enforcement tools necessary to go out and collect,” he said of the shutoff suspension period. “We made it a point to get out in the community and communicate more to make sure they knew they were behind. We were able to get people to come in, but certainly water disconnection is a tool we can use, and it’s pretty effective.”
Taylor urged customers who receive a disconnection notice to contact the city. To establish payment agreements, enroll in an assistance fund or dispute disconnections and charges, customers can contact the 311 Customer Service Center.
While nearly 33 percent of utility customers are delinquent on payments, the 250 most delinquent customers account for half of the nearly $28 million due to the city, Taylor said. The city will target shutoff enforcement to customers that are chronically delinquent and owe the most.
Not all the debts will be easy to recoup, however. Some customers contested the charges in court, while others established payment plans or filed bankruptcy. Even receiving the proceeds from the sale of delinquent properties takes nearly eight months, Taylor said.
A list of the top-15 most delinquent accounts provided to Delaware Online/The News Journal by the city upon request is led by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, owing $6.6 million for storm water charges stemming as far back as 2012, but the federal organization is challenging the bills in court.
Marcella’s House, a low-income residential complex for chronically homeless individuals owned and operated by Connections Community Support Programs, owes…