Century drops late utility fees

Late penalties will now begin after the 24th

The Century City Council approved removing mid-month late fees for natural gas and water and changed the written notice on utility bills to reflect the town’s policy on late payments at Tuesday night’s meeting.

Councilwoman Sandra McMurray Jackson brought a personal gas and water bill and pointed out that the late penalty and fees can be confusing and expensive for residents who live on a fixed income.

“I’m just asking tonight that we vote to take it off,” said Jackson. “We just need to remove the 15th penalty period.”

Councilman Luis Gomez said he could stomach the $5 penalty on the 15th, except when the bill went out late.

“That will give a person the incentive to come in and save that $5 by the 15th,” said Gomez. “We need to scratch that too if we don’t get the bills until the 14th. If I had been out of town, I would have wound paying a good bit of extra money in penalties.”

He said if everybody waited until the 23rd, that would slow down the office process, the budget and the bills list, citing that a lot of people don’t pay their bill until late in the month, there should be a cutoff fee but not a late fee.

Discussion about notifying customers with larger print on their bills of the actual date their service will be disconnected and eliminating the $5 late fee on the 15th led to the final motion.

Century resident Herman Pleasant asked when the bill is actually late.

“It’s a lot of people in the town of Century who don’t work nowhere,” said Pleasant. “We are living off a fixed income. If you’re taking that kind of money out of the household, it’s already going to be hard to pay the rest of your bills or buy a piece of chicken or a piece of bread to eat. You all should make the cutoff date maybe a little bit closer to your deadline then your late fees will come in on your deadline before cutoff time. Move it back a little bit, maybe the 17th, to give people a few more days to come in and try to pay before it’s due to be cut off or for late fees. That’s a lot of money for people to lose just because they were late.”

Gomez said he would like to see a final notice, or something that will get peoples’ attention placed into the bills, citing that he has forgotten his own bills, and that a reminder would be nice.

“I think it would be only fair to the customer if we give some sort of notice,” said Gomez.

Council members discussed courtesy calls in the past, but the town staff simply would not have time to make the calls.

The bills going forward will read: ‘This bill is due upon receipt. If not paid by the 24th, a penalty of $25 for water and $30 for gas will be added and services will be subject to disconnection on the 25th with no further notice. This is the only notice you will receive.’ The final sentence will be in larger print.

According to Town Clerk Leslie Howington, when the staff comes in on the morning of the 25th, the payments in the drive-through drawer will be processed. Any accounts after that are subject to town policy. When the 24th falls on a holiday or weekend, the policy will be in effect as of the following business day.

Councilwoman Jackson made a motion to include the new written notice, which was seconded by Councilwoman Dynette Lewis. The motion carried unanimously.

In other business, the council:

-Approved a church-based fund-raising softball tournament at Showalter Park Sept 3 that requires $50 per hour for use of field lights with a minimum of two hours

-Approved working with the county and Municipal Engineering’s Dale Long to prepare the annual National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System report for the town at an estimated cost of $5,000

The next council meeting will be at 7 p.m, Tuesday, August 2, at town hall. The public is invited.

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