Upsala water department moving toward robust financial health

By Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer
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Rather than sending the usual blue-colored postcard to water account customers who are behind on their payments, Upsala City Administrator Adrian Welle sent certified letters in September.

“Ten of them responded immediately, and of those 10, eight have already made payment,” Welle said. Those eight payments added up to nearly $1,700.

Welle requested at Monday’s City Council meeting that he be allowed to certify the two unpaid account balances to the county auditor for taxes. The money owed will be added to the property’s tax bill for 2013.

The city currently charges an 18 percent annual late fee. “One and a half percent a month is not enough, but that’s all we can legally do,” said Mayor Rollie Johnson.

The city’s reconnect fee is currently set at $25. “We want to increase that fee and I will look into that,” said Welle.

On behalf of the city, Welle has also been utilizing the Revenue Recapture program through the state of Minnesota. Debts can be listed with the program and the funds recaptured from any tax refunds the person would be eligible for.

“The water debt’s the lowest it’s been in six years,” Welle said.

It turns out that these 12 accounts are small change compared to one outstanding balance on the city’s water department books. There is an account currently running a balance of more than $7,000 for 2012.

“I don’t know how many years it’s been this way; I’ve just been told it has always gone on the property taxes,” Welle said.

“We sound like a bank,” said Council Member Joan Olson.

The water shutoff valve for the large account cannot be accessed by the city, since a structure was built over that spot years ago.

“It would cost about $1,500 to install a second, accessible shutoff valve,” said City Maintenance Supervisor Frank Koopmeiners.