More than 2,400 utility bills in Oklahoma City are overdue, totaling approximately $5.5 million, and making it a legislative priority to get the authority to put liens on properties to help collect the money.
The city typically has success getting customers to pay overdue utility bills by threatening to shut off water service. The problem with these accounts is that they are owed by people who receive trash service but are not on city water. Skipping trash collection is not considered an option as it risks leaving garbage scattered, which can pose a threat to public health, officials said.
Thus, the city has asked the state to help.
HB 1933 would grant cities authority to place a lien on properties when utility bills are four or more months overdue. The measure, sponsored by Rep. Mike Jackson, R-Enid, and Sen. Bryce Marlatt, R-Woodward, would provide for notice and hearings. If the cost of utility service, the city's expenses and interest charges remain unpaid, they could be collected with overdue taxes and other charges when a property sells.
A report prepared by the city last fall, for the 2014 legislative session, showed 16 accounts were more than $20,000 behind in payments for storm water and trash service, reported The Oklahoman. Late fees account for more than 80% of the money owed by the worst offenders, according to documents obtained by the newspaper.
The top 10 overdue account holders owed nearly $222,000 and the top 16 owed about $346,000. All are in rural parts of the city.
City officials did not immediately say if they would seek a third-party collection agency to pursue the accounts.