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Late with water bill? You'll have to pay a fee

Not paying a Havre water bill just got a little more expensive.

Havre City Council approved a resolution at Monday night's meeting adding a $5 late fee to water bills that are more than a month late.

Finance Director Doug Kaercher said that a pink slip will be mailed out 40 days after a bill is sent out, notifying the customer of their delinquent payment.

This is a new intermediate step before, according to city statute, the city begins the process of shutting off water after 60 days.

Kaercher said that the city already sends out about 400 late payment notices, about 10 percent of all accounts, without any financial penalty.

"I believe we are being used, " Kaercher told the council.

Council member Bob Kaftan asked Kaercher what recourse people would have for contesting charges or bills. Kaercher said any complaint would come to him first then go to Mayor Tim Solomon and then the council.

Council member Allen "Woody" Woodwick said it would probably end up "like any protest of a bill. It would probably end up with the water and sewer committee. "

The resolution will take effect on Aug. 1. So any water users who haven't paid their June bill can expect a pink slip in their mailbox sometime next month.

One possible explanation for the number of late bill payments is the relative lack of options for customers to pay their bills, a problem the city has recently also been dealing with.

This month is the first time the city of Havre has ever accepted either credit or debit cards for any city related payments.

Since the credit card companies take a cut of transactions, the city also implemented a three percent convenience fee charged to customers, so the card companies cut doesn't come out of the city's taxpayer dollars.

Kaercher said earlier this month that the city is working on adding further convenience.

The next step should be the ability to set up auto-payments with the city, so water bill money is extracted from a customers account as soon as it is due. Then getting a late fee would be impossible.


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