Village looking to clarify utility collection policy
Friday, August 15, 2014 12:08 PM
The evening of August 5 found the City of Rushford Village Council looking to clarify a couple of policies that have been raising questions lately.
The first concerned reimbursement for Village employees who use their own cards or cash to make purchases on behalf of the Village. Currently, city employees who use their own vehicles are reimbursed quarterly for gas, but Village clerk Kristina Mart pointed out that there’s no clear policy for how things other than gas would be reimbursed. While the Village has not yet had any problems with an informal system of paying back its employees, Mayor Gordon Johnson noted that the Village’s auditors likely wouldn’t look fondly on the current system, and that the Village should take steps to clarify an official policy.
Also unclear is any policy regarding Village employees purchasing things—spare tires, old plow blades, etc.—from the Village.
“The lack of a clear policy might lead to perceptions that there may have been deals made at taxpayer expense,” noted Village attorney Thomas Manion.
Manion went on to say that the League of Minnesota Cities likely has several model policies pertaining to both issues that could be adapted to the Village’s needs, and that he would work on drafting such policies for the council’s review at the next meeting.
The second policy up for discussion and clarification Tuesday evening concerned utility collection and shut off procedures.
Currently, residents who are late in paying their utility bills get three billing cycles worth of warnings before having their utilities cut off but in the past there have been cases where residents have tried to settle up the day a city worker arrives at their door to cut their services off, aputting that city worker in an awkward position since Village policy does not clearly allow for that practice.
“When I’ve done collections, I’ve always knocked on the door and tried to give the residents a chance to settle up but we have no obligation to do that; it’s a gesture of kindness,” said Johnson. “We’re a small community and if we can do things to help our people, we should.”
After discussing the issue, the council decided that it wasn’t the job of city workers to act as collection agents and that three notices would be fair warning to residents. It did, however, decide that its current policy ought to more clearly allow for a partial payment option that which would allow residents to keep their utilities on even while owing money, as long as they make a minimum payment before their scheduled shut-off date.
Village officials and staff noted that there were no utilities shut off during the last quarter, and they hoped things would be the same this time around, with the next date for utility shut-off in the Village coming up on August 26.