Sewer rates in Jeffersonville are expected to triple in the coming years.
Jeffersonville officials have taken the drastic step of publishing the top 10 names of delinquent sewage debtors. So far there have been two calls to the city from people on the list to address their delinquent bills.
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JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. (WDRB) -- Officials in Jeffersonville, Indiana are going after people with outstanding sewage bills by publicizing a list of names of people who have not yet paid.
It's a list that contains the names of individuals and businesses. City officials released the list early Monday, and say they plan to update it. So far, it's getting results: we're told two of the 10 people on the current list have already called the Sewer Department to address their bills.
Officials took the drastic step of publishing names because the city is owed more than $1 million on past due sewage bills. Unlike other utilities like gas or electricity, the city can't shut off the lines because it's a health hazard.
Officials say they're acting now the city's sewer rates will triple over the next three years to pay for improvements that are underway that have been mandated by the federal government.
As bills increase, delinquencies could as well, so leadership now in place at the sewer department are trying to collect now before the problem gets worse.
Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore says individuals have a responsibility to each other to pay their bills.
"It is not the city you owe, it's the people in the city you owe," Moore said. "And if you expect your neighbor to pay, then you need to pay."
Some Jeffersonville residents say it hasn't been easy to make the payments.
For six months Luann Varner opened her sewer bill to sticker shock. She says her bill is $700 a month, and her rent is $750.
Monday morning shock turned to embarrassment when her name was published on a Top 10 list of delinquent debtors.
"I wish they would have considered my hardships before they just put it out there for everyone in the free world to know what I've done," Varner said. "Yeah, I'm behind on my bill. I'm sorry, but there are extenuating circumstances to my problem."
Varner says she hasn't been able to work since March due to illness. Her $4,000 bill ranked her 8th in the city for most delinquent sewer accounts.
Utilities Billing Manager Elisha Dale says she plans to release the Top 10 non-payers to the public through the media every month.
This month the Royal Inn off Eastern Boulevard is at the top of the list -- owing more than $21,000.
The Haven House Homeless Shelter owes $11,000.
The federal government mandated a major sewer upgrade in Jeffersonville to fix environmental violations, so sewer rates will triple to an average of $75 a month by 2015.
"That's why I'm getting on the delinquency now before it gets totally, totally out of hand," Dale said.
The amount of money represented on the Top 10 list accounts for less than 10 percent of the what the city is owed.
Dales says there are more than 2,400 accounts owing $200 or more that are at least 90 days past due.
There is some proof that publishing the list of customers who are past due is working.
Kentucky Concrete of Indiana owed nearly $11,000 Jeffersonville on its sewer bill. That was the third highest on the list. As of Monday, the account was paid in full.
"It's not just because we don't want to pay our bill," Varner said. "People in my case can't afford to pay their bill."
Sewer rates are linked to water usage, and Varner says she has paid to repair three leaks on her lines in the last five months.
Dale told us they would take those repairs into consideration.
"We're going to satisfy the account as soon as she brings the receipts in," Dale said.
We also spoke with reps from the Royal Inn late this afternoon, and they told us there's a leak in their water line as well.