Town seeks to correct inactive utility balances

Published 6:13 pm Wednesday, April 12, 2017

BELHAVEN — The Town of Belhaven is continuing its push to pursue delinquent utility account holders and bring balances out of the red.

At Monday night’s Belhaven Board of Aldermen meeting, town Manager Woody Jarvis said he is concerned about a group of inactive accounts with severe delinquencies — 37 accounts with balances owed totaling $133,000.

“We’ve been working pretty close with everybody that had large arrears balances,” Jarvis told the board. “These arrears balances are slowly coming in.”

In February 2016, the Office of the State Auditor issued its audit report on Belhaven, detailing that of the 1,294 active utility accounts in the town, 235 were past due and still receiving services. The audit also stated that 136 accounts were past due by more than 90 days, including 77 outstanding accounts with balances greater than $1,000.

The audit reported hundreds of delinquent inactive accounts, as well, 394 of which were more than 60 days past due.

Officials have worked to correct the situation, and in March 2016, Jarvis estimated that a little more than 62 percent of the past due balances had been collected. The process is ongoing.

At Monday’s meeting, Jarvis asked the board’s permission to enlist the help of an attorney in righting the 37 accounts.

Alderman Steve Carawan said paying an attorney by the hour to collect these balances would cost Belhaven too much money. He said he would prefer the town enlist the help of a debt collector, who would be compensated with a portion of the debts collected. Mayor Adam O’Neal agreed, as did the rest of the board.

Jarvis said he would pursue options with debt collection agents to amend the 37 accounts.

Town officials have guidelines in place to develop repayment plans for delinquent accounts, but if an active account defaults on its repayment, the town reserves the right to shut off service.