News Column

St. Marys cracking down on unpaid utility bill

August 26, 2014

By Gordon Jackson, The Brunswick News, Ga.



Aug. 26--ST. MARYS -- The city of St. Marys has hired a collection agency to collect an estimated $400,000 in unpaid utility bills.

City finance department director Jennifer Brown said the unpaid bills are from former city residents who moved without paying their water, sewer and trash bills.

She said the overdue bills are anywhere from 4-months-old to more than 2 years overdue, in some instances.

The company hired to collect the bills, Penn Credit, has the ability to do things the city can't do, such as track down former city residents regardless of where they live, Brown said.

And Penn Credit has the ability do something the city is unable to do -- file a bad credit report with the many credit rating agencies that determine interest rates and whether a person is deemed a good risk for a loan or credit card.

"That's why we got a collection agency," she said.

Brown believes the threat of a bad credit report will be enough to convince many to pay their debt.

Penn Credit will be paid 16. 5 percent for all bills collected that are less than two years old and 19 percent for all older bills.

City officials hope Penn Credit will be able to collect enough money to help with the large debt the city owes for a water and sewer expansion project that was completed shortly before the housing bubble burst in 2008. At the time, city officials believed the projected growth would pay for the $40 million project.

The debt forced city officials to raise water bills 40 percent after the housing market crashed.

The city and Penn Credit are still working out some of the details, including a transfer of a list with the names and other information about customers who moved without paying their bills.

"It's too early to tell right now (how successful the collection agency will be)," Brown said. "We've got to get all our data transferred to them."

-- Reporter Gordon Jackson writes about Camden County and other local topics. Contact him at gjackson@thebrunswicknews.com, on Facebook or at 464-7655.

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(c)2014 The Brunswick News (Brunswick, Ga.)

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Source: Brunswick News (GA)


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