City of Herington utility bills are mailed to residential customers the fifth of each month and are due upon receipt. Payments received after the 25th of a month are considered late and disconnection of service can result. This has been the practice for several years.
However, the practice was called into question Tuesday during a Herington City Commission meeting.
Several residents paid their utility bills, either on-line or in person at City Hall, earlier in the day (Oct. 1). Reconnection fees were assessed in some cases.
Commissioner D.J. Neuberger brought the matter before the governing body during Tuesday’s session.
He suggested a new policy should be developed to prevent a similar occurrence in the future. He said some persons are paid by employers on the first and 15th of each month and sometimes “live to hand-to-mouth,” making it difficult to pay bills before the first of a month.
Utility clerk Brenda Wildman urged a measured approach to changing the current practice, noting Tuesday was the first time there had been a problem. She added that a change in policy, which she attributed to City Manager Ron Strickland, had been the issue.
Strickland recently directed that utility disconnects be started by city workers at 7:30 a.m. on the first of each month.
Wildman said she needed a part of that day to review accounts and payments before issuing disconnect notices. She added city workers had in the past picked up work orders twice daily at City Hall, but that Strickland had changed that to once daily.
The city manager said he had made the change to add efficiency to the daily work schedule.
Strickland said he would “fix” the situation by requiring bills be paid no later than 4:30 p.m. the last business day of a month.
“It’s time to let our staff work on this. That’s what we pay them for,” Commissioner Fred Olsen said. He added the staff could then report back to the commission.
A suggestion by Commissioner Neuberger to give credit on utility bills to persons who had been charged reconnect fees did not meet with favor from the other four commissioners.
During the discussion, Wildman said the number of persons on payment plans had decreased during the past five years and that none of the persons currently on payment plans were significantly behind on their utility bills.
Commissioners agreed to the staff approach.
In another matter, Herington resident Rick Freeman asked about the progress being made on a survey to determine how well the City of Herington is meeting Americans With Disabilities Act requirements.
He mentioned that a Salina-based OCCK, Inc., staff visit to Herington a few months ago was shortened due to the illness of one of the staff members.
Freeman said he had recently spoken with another staff member. He said that person told him she was waiting on a telephone call from Strickland. The city manager said the person was out of the office when he called her in recent days.
OCCK, Inc., sent a self-evaluation form to the city, Freeman said.
Strickland said copies of the form would need to be made, since one form was used for each specific ADA area.
Freeman said the city needed to look at curb cuts and signage, specifically, and other areas in general.
Also during Tuesday’s meeting, commissioners approved a revised lease agreement for pastureland and farm ground owned by the city in the areas of the Herington Reservoir and the Herington Regional Airport. Current tenants will be afforded the opportunities to renew leases. If they decline, the tracts will be put out for bid.
Commissioners accepted the written resignation of Walter Clark from the Herington Municipal Hospital Board of Trustees. He cited health reasons.
In a letter to City Clerk Debbie Wendt, HMH board of trustees president Mark Wendt said the board would accept applications and then make a recommendation to the city commission for a person to fill the position until the April, 2014, general election.
Commission members also accepted the verbal resignation of Elaine Conant from the Planning Commission. She cited health reasons in a recent call to the city clerk. Persons interested in filling the vacancy need to complete an application of interest. The forms are available at City Hall.
In another matter, commissioners approved a public transportation transit plan for the City of Herington and the Hilltop Community Center.
Strickland, in response to a question from Mayor Robbin Bell, said there had been poor participation in a recent city-wide clean-up week. He said ads had been run in the local newspaper and notice had been posted on the city’s website.
Commissioners met in a 20-minute closed session to discuss a non-elected personnel matter. City Attorney Brad Jantz was included the entire time. Strickland was called in to the closed session a few minutes later. No action was announced when the meeting reopened.
The Herington City Commission’s next regularly-scheduled meeting is slated at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 15.