(A)   Definitions. For the purpose of this section, the following definitions shall apply unless the context clearly indicates or requires a different meaning.
      ADMINISTRATOR. The City Secretary, City Administrator, or other person responsible for managing the administrative affairs of the city.
      CUSTOMER. The person listed on the city's utility accounts as the holder of an account.
      DELINQUENT BILL. A bill for solid waste services or wastewater services that is not paid in full by the due date stated on the bill.
      UTILITY SERVICES. Includes both solid waste services and wastewater services.
   (B)   Charges against deposit; notices. For a bill that remains delinquent after the due date, the Administrator will charge the amount due against any utility deposit held by the city. If there is no deposit, or if the deposit is not sufficient to satisfy the total amount due, the administrator will send a notice to the customer as soon as possible after the due date. The notice will state the amount due, including penalty, and after credit for any deposit, will provide notice of the following:
      (1)   The customer's opportunity to submit a notice of dispute related to the amount of a bill no later than the thirtieth date after the due date for a bill;
      (2)   The customer's option (if eligible) of executing a deferred payment plan for the balance due on the account;
      (3)   Charging the amount due against any deposit held by the city;
      (4)   The date of termination of city utility services if payment is not made or arranged, and, if terminated, the need to pay a new deposit, reconnect fees, and a city administrative fee before services are restored;
      (5)   Possible prosecution for maintaining a nuisance related to discontinuation of utility service;
      (6)   For delinquent bills for wastewater services, possible disconnection of water service provided by Martindale Water Supply Corporation, and if disconnected, the charging of disconnect, reconnect and administrative fees before water service is restored; and
      (7)   Possible recording of a lien against the property associated with the account in the amount of delinquency.
   (C)   Termination of utility services; disconnection of water services.
      (1)   If a bill remains delinquent for 15 days after the due date, and the Administrator has sent a notice to the customer under division (B) above, the Administrator will terminate city utility services to the customer. If delinquent bill includes wastewater fees, the Administrator will add the account to the payment delinquency list for the current month to be submitted to Martindale Water Supply Corporation for termination of water service to the customer.
      (2)   After city utility services are terminated for a customer, the administrator may initiate prosecution of the customer for maintaining a nuisance if warranted by the circumstances.
      (3)   After city utility services are terminated for a location, the Administrator may deny an application to initiate utility services at the location in the name of a different customer if the Administrator has reason to believe that application is an attempt to avoid responsibility for payment of on the account.
   (D)   Fees. The Administrator will assess the following fees on delinquent accounts as appropriate:
      (1)   Late fee: 10% of the total amount due for utility services for the most recent month (i.e, does not apply to arrearages or preceding months.)
      (2)   Deferred payment plan fee: $25.
      (3)   Termination/restoration fee (city administrative fee for terminating and restoring utility services): $25.
      (4)   Disconnect/reconnect and administrative fee (for the disconnection/reconnection of water service by Martindale Water Supply Corporation): The amount charged to the city by Martindale Water Supply Corporation. At present the amount is $57.50 if reconnect is between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, excluding holidays; and $82.50 if reconnect is at any other time.
   (E)   Deferred payment plan eligibility. The Administrator may enter into not more than one deferred payment plan per account per calendar year. The customer must submit an application demonstrating an extreme hardship to the eligible for a deferred payment plan. It is the intent of the City Council that extreme hardship will be recognized only in the most unusual circumstances. The Administrator has sole discretion to approve or deny an application, based on the following factors:
      (1)   The extent to which the circumstance leading to the delinquency was caused by factors beyond the control of the customer;
      (2)   The financial resources available to the customer; and
      (3)   The likelihood that the customer will be able to perform under the deferred payment plan in a timely manner.
   (F)   Deferred payment plans. If the Administrator approves a customer's application for a deferred payment plan, the customer will be required to execute a written agreement that:
      (1)   Requires the customer to pay for all future services before the account becomes delinquent;
      (2)   Provides up to, but no more than, six months to pay all delinquent amounts in equal or as nearly equal as practicable monthly installments;
      (3)   Includes payment of a deferred payment fee at the time the plan is approved;
      (4)   Provides that in the even of any default of the deferred payment plan, utility services and, for delinquent wastewater bills, water service provided by Martindale Water Supply Corporation, will be terminated/disconnected without further notice;
   (G)   Disputed bills. A customer may informally discuss the amount of a bill with the city representatives during the city's normal business hours. A customer may formally dispute the amount of a bill in accordance with the following:
      (1)   The customer must submit to the Administrator a completed notice of dispute within 30 days after the due date for a bill. The amount of a bill will be presumed to be correct if no notice of dispute is submitted within that time, unless the customer demonstrates to the Administrator that the delay was caused by factors outside the customer's control.
      (2)   After a receipt of a completed notice of dispute form, the Administrator will schedule a meeting with the customer.
      (3)   Prior to the meeting with the Administrator, a customer may request reasonable access to the records of the city related to the customer's account. The customer may secure copies of records after paying normal copying charges.
      (4)   At the meeting with the Administrator, a customer may be assisted by a representative, may present documentary evidence, and may present verbal information to the Administrator about the amount of a bill.
      (5)   The Administrator will make a written decision on the amount of a bill within ten days of the meeting, and the Administrator will provide a copy of the decision to the customer.
   (H)   Forms. The Administrator may develop forms and adopt procedures that are consistent with the purposes stated in this policy.
   (I)   Liens. In accordance with Tex. Loc. Gov't Code, § 552.0025, the Administrator may record notice of a lien against a tract of property to which utility services were provided, to secure payment for amounts owed for the utility services. This lien does not attach to property that is a homestead protected by the Texas Constitution, nor does it secure the payment of any utility bills that were incurred by a tenant of the property prior to September 1, 2011. The lien will be inferior to any lien is recorded prior to the date the city's lien is recorded, but the city's lien will be superior to all other liens, including previously recorded judgement liens, and all liens recorded after the city's lien is recorded. The notice will be recorded in the real property records of Caldwell County, Texas, and will included the following:
      (1)   The name of the owner of the property;
      (2)   The name of the customer who received the utility services, if different than the owner;
      (3)   The legal description of the property;
      (4)    The types and amounts of charges for which payment is delinquent; and
      (5)   The address of the city office at which the delinquent charges may be paid.
(Ord. 2011-08-02, passed - -)