Public bears burden for nearly $340k in unpaid utilities - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Public bears burden for nearly $340k in unpaid utilities

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Unpaid bills are taken through collections, then small-claims court. Unpaid bills are taken through collections, then small-claims court.

Hundreds of people every month in Huntsville are not paying their utility bill. Those unpaid bills could mean higher rates for the people who do pay on time.

In July, Huntsville Utilities said there was a total of $28,196.33 in uncollected invoices. Government Relations Manager Joe Gehrdes said that is about average for each month of the year. That equates to about $336,000 unpaid each year.

Gehrdes said Huntsville Utilities actively tries to lessen the bad debt. After several failed attempts to contact the customer, an in-house collections group will send a notice. If the bill is still unpaid, Huntsville Utilities will take the customer to small claims court. In July, Huntsville Utilities brought 100 people to court.

"The attempt to collect that debt will follow that customer, as far as we're concerned, forever," said Gehrdes. "Because when they come back for service, we still have that on record. Before they can obtain service, they have to pay that debt and it's going to impact their deposit amount."

The balance that remains unpaid is eventually absorbed by Huntsville Utilities. That is because it is a not-for-profit public utility company that must pay their provider in full each month. 

"We have to be net zero, revenue neutral," said Gehrdes. "So if it were to cut into our cost that badly, then yeah. The rest of our rate payers would have to bare that burden."

Attempts to compare the amount of unpaid utilities to cities of similar size in Alabama were unsuccessful. Cities like Montgomery and Birmingham use private businesses to collect utilities.

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