Grant Revised Municipal Code on Utility Disconnect Procedure
CHAPTER 7 – PUBLIC UTILITIES
Article 1 – Utilities Generally
SECTION 7-101: CITY POWERS; RATE SETTING
The city currently owns and operates a water supply and distribution system, a sanitary sewer disposal and treatment system, an electricity distribution system and a solid waste pickup and disposal service. The city has the right and power to tax assets and collect payment for use of the water supplied to its residents, for their use of the sewer system, for use of the electricity supplied to them, and for use of the solid waste pickup and disposal service. The City Council is authorized to establish by resolution such rates for water, sewer, electricity, and solid waste pickup as may be deemed fair and reasonable. All such rates, taxes, or rent shall be a lien upon the premises or real estate for which the same is used or supplied and such rates, taxes, or rent shall be paid and collected, and such lien enforced in such manner as the council shall by resolution direct and provide. All such rates, taxes, or rent shall be on file in the office of the city clerk for public inspection. (Neb. Rev. Stat. §§17-538, 17-542)
SECTION 7-102: MANDATORY USE OF CITY SERVICES
All residents of the city shall be required to subscribe to city utility services. Said residents shall be subject to the assessment and payment of charges for such utility services, as set from time to time by the City Council.
SECTION 7-103: DEFINITIONS
For the purpose of this article, the following definitions shall apply unless the context clearly indicates or requires a different meaning.
- “Delinquent utility service bill” shall mean any bill for utility service of which all or any portion is not paid during the normal billing cycle; provided, where an installment payment plan is in effect, “delinquent utility service bill” shall mean any bill for utility service of which all or any portion of the scheduled payment is not paid during the normal billing cycle.
- “Subscriber/patron/consumer” shall mean any natural persons and, where relevant, a corporation, partnership or unincorporated association which is a subscriber or patron, or consumer of a utility owned or operated by the city.
- “Utility” shall mean any enterprise, facility or service provided under the ownership, direction, or control of the city; provided, the Grant Municipal Airport is specifically excluded from the meaning of “utility” as used in this chapter.
- “Voluntary” shall mean a subscriber or patron requests the shutoff of a utility.
- “Involuntary” shall mean the shutoff of utility service is not the request of the subscriber or patron but of the city and service is disconnected due to non-payment or vacancy.
- “Temporary” shall mean the disconnection of a utility service for a limited time.
SECTION 7-104: APPLICANTS; PAYMENT HISTORY
No applicant for the services of a public or private utility company furnishing utilities at retail shall be denied service because of unpaid bills for similar service which are not collectible at law because of statutes of limitations or discharge in bankruptcy proceedings. (Neb. Rev. Stat. §70-1601)
SECTION 7-105: APPLICATION; DEPOSIT
- Any person, firm or corporation desiring to establish any municipal utility or combination thereof shall make application for said service(s). The application shall be on such form(s) as may now or hereinafter be prescribed by the appropriate utility. The application shall include the applicant’s name, spouse name, service address, mailing address, landlord’s name, telephone number and personal identification number (e.g., social security number, driver’s license number and date of birth) or federal identification number (businesses) and signature of the party responsible for payment. Persons applying on behalf of others or acting as an agent for others may provide the required information and such agent agrees to assume responsibility for the person, firm, or corporation upon whose behalf they are applying.
- A deposit is required for all customers that do not own the property or business where the service is being provided that is $150 or 1½ times the normal monthly average usage in the last 12 months of usage or expected usage of a new service, whichever is higher. Said deposit shall be returned to the tenant after utility obligations are paid. The owner of the property shall sign an agreement so that the utility services automatically transfer to the owner when there is a disconnection, whether it be voluntary or non-voluntary by a tenant.
SECTION 7-106: ID THEFT PREVENTION
The city contracts electrical services from Midwest Electric for its citizens; and Midwest Electric currently has in place an Identity Theft Red Flag Prevention Program designed to identify, detect, and prevent theft of its members’ personal information, commonly known as identity theft. The city authorizes Midwest Electric as its administrator of the Identity Theft Red Flag Prevention Program.
SECTION 7-107: BILLING PROCEDURES
- All municipal utility charges shall be calculated in accordance with the specific rate resolution applicable to each municipal utility or service rendered to a customer.
- The utility billing shall provide each municipal utility customer a combined monthly municipal utility bill which shall include the charges incurred for regular monthly water, sewer, waste, and electric services or any combination thereof, plus any fees, penalties, or previous balances. Each municipal utility shall be designated as a separate entry on the billing statement. Bills for municipal utility services provided shall be rendered and paid monthly.
- Billing for any extra services, installation charges or other special charges shall be rendered in accordance with the applicable utility or service rate resolution and shall be included on the appropriate monthly billing statement or as a separate bill.
- The billing cycle shall be as follows:
- Meters shall be read between the 19th day of the month and 25th day of the following month.
- Monthly billings shall be rendered within sixty (60) days following the period in which municipal utility service is provided. The date the bill is mailed shall be known as the billing date. The total bill shall be due and payable by the close of business no later than the 15th day of the next month after the billing date. The 15th of the next month following the billing date shall be known as the due date. If the due date falls on a holiday or on Saturday or Sunday, the due date shall be on the first business day following the holiday or weekend.
- In the event that a customer fails to pay his or her utility bill on or before the close of business on the due date, a late charge of 10% or $5.00, whichever is greater, shall be added individually to each utility service (water, sewer, waste, electric or allowable combination).
SECTION 7-108: DELINQUENCY
The procedure for delinquent customers shall be as follows:
- The first business day following the due date shall be known as the delinquent date. If the delinquent date falls on a holiday or on Saturday or Sunday, the bill shall then become delinquent at 7:30 a.m. on the first business day following the holiday or weekend.
- The disconnect notification date shall be as provided in Section 7-111 (Disconnect Procedure; Notice).
- If a bill is not paid on or before seven business days following the due date, the city shall disconnect and discontinue any or all utility services until the account is made current. The seven (7) business days following the due date shall be known as the disconnection date. If the disconnection date falls on a holiday or on Saturday or Sunday, then disconnection shall occur on the first business day following the holiday or weekend.
- Any customer whose bill remains unpaid at 4:00 p.m. on the 15th day of the month after the billing date shall be considered delinquent. Any customer who is delinquent on any one municipal utility (water, sewer, waste or electric) or any combination thereof may be disconnected from the municipal water and electric systems and once disconnected, shall not be reconnected or reinstated until payment of all charges, fees, deposit, and penalties necessary to bring the account(s) to a current status. The city may also refer delinquent customers to a collection agency or attorney for collection on a case-by-case basis.
SECTION 7-109: DISCONNECT AND RECONNECT FEES
- The fees for disconnection and reconnection shall be as set by resolution by the City Council and kept on file in the city office. Descriptions of the fees are as follows:
- Re-connect fee plus any unpaid bills on the service.
- Disconnect fee, voluntary.
- Disconnect fee, involuntary.
- Shutoff fee, temporary and customer continues to pay the monthly bill.
- Turn-on fee, which is within one month of temporary shutoff.
- Shutoff or turn-on fee, outside of normal working hours.
- Disconnect and reconnect fees shall not apply if the customer continues to pay the minimum monthly billed rate for the associated utility, regardless of whether the utility is used. If monthly billing and usage are stopped or suspended at the customer’s request, the voluntary disconnect fee and full reconnect fee shall apply.
SECTION 7-110: DISCONNECT POLICIES
It is the policy of the city to require timely payment of bills for utility services by the subscribers or patrons of such services and compliance with all federal, state, and municipal laws, resolutions, rules, and regulations pertaining to utility services. The city may disconnect a utility service and remove its property for any one or more of the following reasons:
- Nonpayment of a delinquent utility service bill within 30 days after the date that same is due. Any service payment is considered delinquent when all or any portion of the bill is not paid during the normal billing cycle;
- Theft, diversion, or unauthorized use of any utility service;
- Molesting a meter, seal or other equipment controlling or regulation the supply of utility service;
- Wasting water or causing or allowing water to be wasted, as set forth in this chapter;
- Abandonment by the subscriber or patron or the premises served by a utility service; or
- Failure to comply with any federal, state, or municipal law, resolution, rule or regulation.
SECTION 7-111: DISCONNECT PROCEDURE; NOTICE
- In the event that there are one or more reasons to disconnect a utility service, all delinquent accounts will be sent disconnect notices except in cases where an installment payment plan is in effect. These notices shall be sent by first class mail at least seven days prior to the proposed date of disconnection and shall contain the following information:
- The date service will be disconnected if the subscriber does not take appropriate action.
- The address and telephone number to contact the office regarding a conference on a disputed bill,
- The procedure to be taken if a doctor’s certificate is needed and the effect of such certificate on the disconnect procedures.
- The availability of possible assistance for welfare recipients through Social Services.
- The utility service to be disconnected and the reason or reasons for the disconnection.
- A statement of intention to disconnect unless the subscriber or patron pays or decides with the city to pay the subscriber’s or patron’s bill where the reason or one of the reasons for the disconnection is a delinquent utility bill and takes appropriate action to remove the reason or reasons for disconnection where the reason or one or more of the reasons for disconnection is a reason other than a delinquent utility service bill.
- All customers disconnected for nonpayment will make payment at, or make arrangements with, the Midwest Electric office in Grant, Nebraska.
- In the following instances, a delinquent account is subject to disconnect without prior notice:
- If all or any portion of an installment payment is not received by the specified date.
- Five days after the conclusion of a conference on a disputed bill.
- When the party in question fails to attend a scheduled conference concerning installment payment or in dispute of a bill.
- If payment of a delinquent account is made with an insufficient funds check.
SECTION 7-112: TAMPERING; UNAUTHORIZED RECONNECTION; EVIDENCE
- It is an offense for any person:
- To connect any instrument, device, or contrivance with any wire supplying or intended to supply electricity or electric current or to connect any pipe or conduit supplying water without knowledge and consent of the city in such manner that any portion thereof may be supplied to any instrument by or at which electricity, electric current, or water may be consumed without passing through the meter made or provided for measuring or registering the amount or quantity therefor passing through it;
- To knowingly use or knowingly permit the use of electricity, electric current, or water obtained unlawfully pursuant to this section;
- To reconnect electrical or water service without the knowledge and consent of the city if the service has been disconnected pursuant to Neb. Rev. Stat. §§70-1601 to 70-1615 or Section 7-111 (Disconnect Procedure; Notice) or pursuant to any court order.
- To willfully injure, alter, or by any instrument, device, or contrivance in any manner interfere with or obstruct the action or operation of any meter made or provided for measuring or registering the amount or quantity of electricity, electric current, or water passing through it without the knowledge and consent of the city.
- Proof of the existence of any wire, pipe, or conduit connection or reconnection or of any injury, alteration, interference, or obstruction of a meter is prima facie evidence of the guilt of the person in possession of the premises where such connection, reconnection, injury, alteration, interference, or obstruction is proved to exist.
- There shall be a rebuttable presumption that a tenant, occupant, or owner at any premises where bypassing, tampering, or unauthorized metering is proven to exist caused or had knowledge of such bypassing, tampering, or unauthorized metering if the tenant or occupant:
- Had access to the part of the utility supply system on the premises where the bypassing, tampering, or unauthorized metering is proven to exist; and
- Was responsible or partially responsible for payment, either directly or indirectly, to the utility or to any other person for utility services to the premises.
SECTION 7-113: TAMPERING; CIVIL ACTION
- For purposes of this section, the definitions found in Neb. Rev. Stat. §25-21,275 shall apply. The city may bring a civil action for damages against any person who commits, authorizes, solicits, aids, abets, or attempts:
- Tampering, or
- Unauthorized metering when such act results in damages to a municipal utility.
- In any civil action brought pursuant to this section, the city shall be entitled, upon proof of willful or intentional bypassing, tampering, or unauthorized metering, to recover as damages:
- The amount of actual damage or loss if the amount of damage or loss is susceptible of reasonable calculation; or
- Liquidated damages of $750.00, if the amount of actual damage or loss is not susceptible of reasonable calculation.
- The remedies provided by this section shall be deemed to be supplemental and additional to powers conferred by existing laws, and the remedies provided in this section are in addition to and not in limitation of any other civil or criminal statutory or common law remedies.
SECTION 7-114: ACCESS TO METERS
The city superintendent or his or her duly authorized agents and authorized meter readers shall have free access at any reasonable time to all electric and water meters. Access shall not be barred by locked gates or by animals.
SECTION 7-115: ENFORCEMENT OF CHAPTER
- Any person deemed guilty of an unlawful act of this chapter shall be subject to the municipal code penalty provision at the end of this chapter, which may be prosecuted as a criminal action.
- The city superintendent may terminate any and all services of a user for violation of any provisions of this section. The disconnect procedures found in the separate articles shall apply, and the user may apply to the City Council for reconsideration of the superintendent’s action.
- The city may pursue civil action in the courts of Perkins County for damages resulting from violations of this chapter. If liquidated damages cannot be determined, the liquidated damages will be determined as the average usage over the last six pay periods or for damages to a system, the actual cost of repairs or replacement necessary to get the system operating as it was prior to the violation. In addition, the city may recover all reasonable expenses and costs incurred, including but not limited to disconnection, reconnection, service calls, equipment, costs of the suit, and reasonable attorneys’ fees in cases within the scope of Neb. Rev. Stat. §25-1801.
- Bills and assessments that are unpaid from use of utilities will be assessed to the real estate if unpaid for a period of 90 days. Said assessment may be collected as any other special assessment of the city.
- The remedies provided in this section may be combined and are not a limitation of any other civil, criminal statutory or common law remedies.