HUMBOLDT — City Administrator Cole Herder told council members here Monday night 41 residents owe $25,732 in past due utility bills.
His immediate action is to “work with” those who are behind in their payments by allowing them to pay 20 percent on their accounts in addition to what they owe for current bills.
“That way they will be caught up by the time winter gets here,” and gas usage starts to rise, Herder said. Council members approved the motion by 8-0.
Humboldt provides gas, water, sewer and trash collection. Electricity comes from Westar.
Herder’s approach steps outside a city ordinance, which sets a due date of current utility bills of the 10th of each month. If not met, a letter is sent within five days noting non-payment and a 5 percent penalty is added if payment isn’t made by the 21st.
“After that, utilities are turned off unless there is a good reason” to permit the consumer additional time, Herder said.
Past due bills for the 41 residents range from a touch over $200 to nearly $1,800. For some, what’s owed is for several months.
Herder noted in the past 14 years Humboldt has failed to collect about $118,000 on utility bills and recently $14,884 in delinquent bills were turned over to the state, which will send to Humboldt tax refunds and any lottery winnings that otherwise would go to residents.
City Attorney Fred Works approved of Herder’s approach, and said he didn’t think an enabling ordinance was necessary.
STEVE HOAG told council members he and other Humboldt Rotarians wanted to place a kiosk at the Humboldt terminal of the Southwind Rail Trail that would hold a map to give trail users information about how to get about Humboldt.
“It will be marked ‘you are here’ and show how to get to places where there are restrooms and water,” Hoag said.
Humboldt has bike paths marked in town, but Hoag said they were a little difficult to follow.
Also, the Rotarians want to paint sharrows on streets, thinking they would be much easier to follow than streetside signs. Hoag said Iola had templates that could be used.
Sharrows are signs painted on streets — Iola has several — to guide bicyclists.
Council members gave the sharrows plan a unanimous thumbs up and said city crews would help with painting.
IN OTHER NEWS:
— Herder was given administrative duties for Humboldt’s housing rental rehabilitation plan, which will be funded by a $170,000 Community Development Block Grant that was announced several months ago.
Under the plan an owner of a rental property may receive up to $20,000 for rehabilitation of a unit as long as the renter’s household income fits grant guidelines. For a family of one it’s $30,700, for two $35,100, and so on.
The owner must contribute 25 percent of rehabilitation costs.
Herder said five owners of nine units had expressed interest.
— Council members will meet in a special session at 6 p.m. July 28 to go over the city’s 2015 budget. A public hearing will be Aug. 11.
Herder said he had gathered information from all but one department head and would have the spending plan ready well ahead of the special meeting.