Mea Culpa

Recently, I posted an opinion on Gilbert Watch relating to the Council’s approval of an increase in utility deposits for new residents (“12/6/2010 Town Council Study Session and 12/9/2010 Meeting – Highlights"). The Town also increased fees for those who have a history of late payments resulting in disconnects/reconnects. That part of the fee increase was justified. Bothersome to me was that the Town would penalize NEW residents who had NO previous payment history in Gilbert. Their deposit went from $100 to $200. Council Member Jenn Daniels sent me an email taking issue with my statements. Upon considerable reflection of her comments, I realize that, while the additional deposit might be costly for new, unknown residents, the on-time, reliable rate payers should not have to bear the costs of those who don’t pay.

Following are excerpts from Council Member Daniels’ email:

“The Town of Gilbert is increasing the deposit amount required on NEW utility accounts that have a history of non-payment/disconnect with the Town or have NO previous payment history with the Town….

“We have a substantial dollar amount sent to collections every year, and we are trying to find a way to hold the user of the utilities responsible – NOT the rest of the on-time ratepayers. Some of the other suggestions were to pull credit reports on new customers. As you know, that carries with it a cost, and then we are also left with staff making judgment calls about who to apply the deposit to and who not to, based on the credit report. I used to work in the credit industry, so I have some knowledge about the value in it, but the cost is still being transferred to the on-time payers.

“The Town of Gilbert is among the lowest in utility bills for water and waste services. And… we are one of the few communities who do not siphon off a portion of the utility amounts charged to add revenue to our general fund.”

Bottom line, Council Member Jenn Daniels commended the Town staff for doing what they can to lift the burden off the shoulders of those who regularly pay their bills on time. She’s right.