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Stormwater utility: City to file liens for late bills

COVINGTON - The city of Covington is ready to place liens on properties whose owners are delinquent in paying stormwater bills.

The city reported approximately 1,800 delinquent accounts, totaling between $600,000 and $700,000 in unpaid bills, for the four-year billing period that started in first quarter 2005, City Manager Steve Horton said.

The city sent out a warning letter about a month ago giving property owners until July 18 to pay their bills and have penalties and interest waived. Between 35 and 45 percent have been paid since the letter went out, Horton said.

About half the remaining accounts will have liens placed against the properties. In certain cases, such as where a property has recently been sold to a new owner, the city will turn the bills over to collections.

"Once the liens are placed on the properties that are still delinquent, the property owners will have to pay the past due balance, the lien fee and any other penalties in order for the liens to be removed," Horton said.

"We will work out agreements with customers requesting time to pay the delinquent bills. We can provide the customer up to six months to pay the delinquent charges, but the customer must sign a written agreement confirming their intent to pay the bills within the specified time period," he added. "We prefer to do this before the liens are filed as it saves the city the time involved in placing the liens or turning the delinquent bills over for collection and it saves the customer the money associated with the liens or other administrative fees. Anyone contemplating an agreement should contact us immediately, as the liens are scheduled to be filed within the week and the bills that will be turned over for collections will soon follow."

The city implemented the stormwater utility in 2004 to offset the cost of a federally mandated stormwater program. The fees were reduced and new credits were established earlier this year.

The National Pollution Discharge Elimination System was established by the Clean Water Act of 1972 to control point sources, such as wastewater discharge. The act was amended in 1987 to expand the NPDES program to address non-point source pollution such as stormwater runoff. The Georgia Environmental Protection Division enforces local government compliance with the Clean Water Act.

Covington's stormwater plan has six components: public education and outreach; public involvement and participation; illicit discharge detection and elimination; construction site stormwater runoff control; post-construction stormwater management in new development and redevelopment; and pollution prevention and good housekeeping measures. The city also hired additional personnel, such as erosion control inspectors, stormwater maintenance crews and a public education professional, to meet program objectives.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.