Chapter 3.25
UTILITY SERVICE BILLING CODE

Sections:

3.25.005    Definitions.

3.25.010    Council to set rates and other fees by resolution.

3.25.015    Annual reviews – Revisions.

3.25.020    Additional fees for nonassessed partition property.

3.25.025    Use of funds collected – Applicability.

3.25.030    Application for service – Requirements.

3.25.035    Withholding of services – Unpaid balances.

3.25.040    Person responsible for payment for services rendered.

3.25.045    Meter reading and billing.

3.25.050    Delinquent accounts – Suspension of services.

3.25.055    Voluntary discontinuation of services – Permanent and temporary.

3.25.060    Adjustments and refunds other than deposits and leaks.

3.25.065    Excessive water leaks – Adjustments and payment terms.

3.25.070    Charges for inspecting and testing and broken meters.

Prior legislation: Ords. 331 and 457.

3.25.005 Definitions.

(1) As used in this chapter, the following terms shall mean:

Active. All utility accounts are considered “active” unless the city has been notified in writing, on a form provided by the city, of the responsible party’s intention to temporarily or permanently inactivate the responsible party’s account and to stop receiving utility services or other services at a particular billing unit, occupied unit or developed property.

“Billing unit” means any structure or any portion of any structure intended for residential, commercial, industrial, or other uses. For example, in a multifamily residential development, each dwelling unit shall be considered a separate billing unit, and each retail outlet or nonresidential operation in a shopping mall shall be considered a separate billing unit.

“City” means the city of Veneta, Oregon.

“City administrator” means the city’s administrator or the city administrator’s designee.

“City system” means the city’s property, infrastructure, service yard, and offices connected therewith, clerical or field, existing and necessary for the provision of water, sewage, transportation and stormwater services, individually or combined, within and without the limits of the city of Veneta, Oregon.

“Developed property” means a parcel or legal portion of real property, on which improvements exist or are being constructed. The term “improvement” includes but is not limited to buildings, parking lots, landscaping and outside storage.

“Dwelling unit” means a single unit providing complete independent living facilities, designed for occupancy by one family and including permanent provisions for living, sleeping, eating, cooking and sanitation.

“Finance director” means the city finance director or the finance director’s designee.

“Nonresidential property” means property that is not primarily used for personal domestic accommodation. Nonresidential property includes industrial, commercial, institutional, hotels and motels, and other nonresidential uses. Also includes property with facilities for residential homes and/or care as defined in the city’s land development ordinance.

“Other services” means the existence and availability for use of streets, pathways, bike lanes, stormwater infrastructure and drainage ways.

“Owner” means the owner or owners of record title, or the purchaser or purchasers under a recorded land sales agreement, and other persons having an interest of record in the described real property.

“Past due notice” means the notice stating that a utility account is past due and delinquent and that failure to submit required payment will jeopardize the continuance of utility or other services to the billing unit, occupied unit or developed property.

“Person” means any individual, firm, co-partnership, association, corporation, or other legally recognized organization.

“Premises” means a parcel of land within the Veneta city limits that receives services or has the potential to receive services from one or more of the city’s systems.

“Public works director” means the city public works director or the public works director’s designee.

“Residential property” means property that is used primarily for personal domestic accommodation, including single-family, multifamily residential property and home occupations, but not including hotels and motels or other uses listed in the definition of “nonresidential property.”

“Responsible party” means the person or persons who by occupancy or ownership use one or more city utility and other services, or by contractual arrangement on file with city are responsible to pay for utility and other services provided to a billing unit, occupied unit or developed property.

“Service month” means a period that begins with the first day of each calendar month and ends with the last day of the month.

“Utility account” means the account set up for each responsible party to record billings, payments, adjustments, and other information pertaining to city’s provision of utility services and/or other services.

“Utility services” means the city’s provision of water to and sewage removal from a billing unit, occupied unit or developed property.

(2) Unless otherwise defined herein, terms used in this chapter have the meaning ascribed in VMC 3.20.005. (Ord. 531 § 1, 2016)

3.25.010 Council to set rates and other fees by resolution.

(1) The council shall have power and authority to establish all rates, deposits, fees, penalties and other charges for connection to and use of city utility services by council resolution and to provide for the payment of billings, deposits, penalties and other charges and to discontinue services to any billing unit where any such charge is not duly paid within the time provided therefor, or when any of the rules and regulations of the city are disregarded or disobeyed.

(2) The council shall have power and authority to classify utility and other services by service pipe size, meter size, demand, nature of usage, or other means deemed equitable by the council, and to establish associated rates and minimum charges by council resolution.

(3) The council shall have power and authority to enter into special agreements for utility service users and at special rates either greater or less than existing rates to users within or without the boundaries of the city. (Ord. 531 § 1, 2016)

3.25.015 Annual reviews – Revisions.

An annual review of established utility service fees may be made by the council and said fees may be revised periodically to reflect actual costs for operation, repairs, improvements, expansion and maintenance of the city’s utility systems. (Ord. 531 § 1, 2016)

3.25.020 Additional fees for nonassessed partition property.

In addition to city utility service fees set forth above, an applicant desiring to partition property, any part of which has never been fully assessed, shall pay an additional fee which shall also be set forth by resolution. This additional fee shall not relieve the property or properties created from any assessments provided by other ordinances in the future. This section shall not apply when, after the partitioning, all the parcels or lots created are located within 100 feet of a dedicated city right-of-way. The fee shall not apply to each additional lot created. (Ord. 531 § 1, 2016)

3.25.025 Use of funds collected – Applicability.

(1) All sewer funds collected from the provisions of this chapter shall be recorded into the municipal sewer fund and shall be used only for the operation, repairs, improvements, expansion and maintenance of city’s sewage collection, treatment and effluent system.

(2) All water funds collected from the provisions of this chapter shall be recorded into the municipal water fund and shall be used only for the operation, repairs, improvements, expansion and maintenance of city’s water treatment and distribution system. (Ord. 531 § 1, 2016)

3.25.030 Application for service – Requirements.

(1) Person(s) requesting to receive utility or other services from the city shall make written application to the city, on the forms provided by the city, and provide other information as requested to identify a responsible party for the utility account to be established upon approval of the application for service.

(2) A completed application identifying the responsible party and including owner and occupant’s agreement to abide by this code and any written rules or regulations adopted for the utility system and owner’s consent to lien the premises being served in the amount of past due amounts and charges in the event of nonpayment shall be submitted in person to city with at least one piece of government issued identification for the identified responsible party.

(3) Nonowner persons applying for utility services or other services shall also present an executed and valid rental agreement.

(4) If an application meeting the requirements of subsection (2) of this section is not on file with the city, utility and other service charges and fees shall be charged to the utility account and the billings mailed to the property owner on record.

(5) City shall determine, in city’s sole discretion, whether all utility service application requirements are met. Utility and other services shall begin on the earlier of the date specified on the application or on the date the city approves the application. (Ord. 531 § 1, 2016)

3.25.035 Withholding of services – Unpaid balances.

(1) If a person moves to a different premises within the city, leaving an unpaid balance on their utility account for utility or other services at a former premises, the city shall, prior to initiation of utility services at the new premises and in addition to payment of the required deposits at the new premises, require the payment of the unpaid balance and payment for utility and other services rendered and billable at the former premises.

(2) If a person submits an application for utility or other services at a premises for which an unpaid balance exists on any utility account associated with the provision of utility or other services at that premises, the city shall, prior to initiation of utility services at the premises and in addition to payment of the required deposits at the premises, require the payment of the unpaid utility account(s) balance(s) or require that an agreement, provided by and satisfactory to the city, be entered into by the property owner.

(3) The owner’s responsibility for payment of bills per subsections (1) and (2) of this section shall not be reduced or waived because of the city’s attempts to collect from the responsible party, so long as the owner is sent notice of the delinquent billing by first class mail to owner’s last address on file with the city at the time notice is sent to the responsible party. (Ord. 531 § 1, 2016)

3.25.040 Person responsible for payment for services rendered.

The person known or determined to be the responsible party at the time utility or other services are rendered shall be responsible for payment of applicable fees authorized by this and other chapters of this code, as adopted by council resolution. In cases where the responsible party is not the owner and responsible party is delinquent on a utility account, the owner of that premises shall be liable for all past due amounts and charges. The owner’s responsibility for payment of bills shall not be reduced or waived because of the city’s attempts to collect from the responsible party, so long as the owner is sent notice of the delinquent billing by first class mail to owner’s last address on file with the city at the time notice is sent to the responsible party. (Ord. 531 § 1, 2016)

3.25.045 Meter reading and billing.

The water meters for all service connections will be read on or about the twenty-fifth day of each month, and the responsible party for each utility account shall be billed on or about the first day of each month for the utility and other services rendered during the preceding month. Said bills shall be due and payable on or before the fifteenth day of each month, and shall become delinquent on the sixteenth day of said month. (Ord. 531 § 1, 2016)

3.25.050 Delinquent accounts – Suspension of services.

(1) Where the responsible party is delinquent in payment on their utility account, a past due notice shall be mailed to the responsible party and to the property owner of record, if different than the responsible party.

(2) The past due notice shall inform the responsible party and the property owner that:

(a) If the unpaid balance on the utility account has not been paid in full by 4:00 p.m. on the twenty-seventh day of the month, utility services shall be suspended on the following business day without any further notice;

(b) A turn-off/turn-on fee will be charged and payable prior to restoration of utility service; and

(c) A lien may be placed on the property and the utility account may be assigned to a third-party collection agency.

(3) Payment extensions of no more than five calendar days may be granted upon request of the responsible party, if the utility service bills for the prior three months were timely paid and any prior extension terms were honored. Requests for payment extensions need not be in writing; however, such request must be made no later than 3:00 p.m. on the fifteenth day of the month. If the fifteenth day of the month falls on a weekend or holiday, the request must be made the preceding business day.

(4) Payments returned to the city due to “nonsufficient funds” (NSF) shall be treated as if no payment was made. The responsible party shall be notified in writing of lack of payment. Notification will include a deadline for repayment and inform the responsible party of the NSF fee, in an amount set by council resolution. Lack of repayment by the deadline shall put the utility account into delinquent status, subject to discontinuance of service per this code.

(5) If utility service is discontinued for lack of payment, the entire unpaid balance on the utility account plus the turn-off/turn-on fee must be received by the city prior to restoration of utility services. Exceptions, if requested in writing, may be granted by the finance director or city administrator in their sole discretion. Considerations for granting exceptions shall include payment history, whether or not prior exceptions or extensions were honored, and whether or not the service has been discontinued previously for lack of payment.

(6) Should the water to any premises served by a city system be turned on by any user or other person without authority from the city, the utility service may then be shut off at the main, or the meter removed. The cost thereof shall be established by council resolution, and service shall not be restored to premises until all accrued charges are paid.

(7) Unpaid balances on utility accounts shall be a lien against the premises served and entry made on the ledger or other records of the city pertaining to such ledger 30 days after the utility service has been discontinued for nonpayment or other violations of applicable provisions of this code.

(8) Utility accounts with unpaid balances shall be assigned to a third-party collection agency 30 days after the utility service has been discontinued for nonpayment or other violations of applicable provisions of this code. (Ord. 531 § 1, 2016)

3.25.055 Voluntary discontinuation of services – Permanent and temporary.

(1) The responsible party for each utility account shall continue to receive billings and be charged for services rendered until such time as the city receives written application, using forms provided by the city, to transfer responsible party status for the utility account to a different responsible party.

(2) Persons can request to have utility and other services discontinued by giving written notice to the city when the premises will be permanently or temporarily vacated or utility services are requested to be temporarily suspended for premises repairs or maintenance.

(3) When written notice is received for the reason of permanently vacating the premises, the city shall prepare and mail a final bill to the address on record. The final billing will include prorated base charges and fees, a use fee based on the actual use of water from the last meter reading and a credit for any deposit remaining on the utility account per VMC 3.20.015.

(4) The final billing shall be due on or before the due date shown on the billing.

(5) Responsible parties or property owners of premises with unpaid and inactive utility accounts may request to enter into a written pay agreement with city. Said agreement shall be recorded against the premises and allow payment for a period of time not to exceed six months from the date services were discontinued. No variances to payment terms will be allowed unless a new agreement has been requested and approved by the city. Violations of pay agreement terms shall result in charges, penalties and collection per applicable provisions of this code. Existence of a pay agreement for one premises within the city shall have no bearing on city’s approval for services at another premises within the city.

(6) Unpaid and inactive utility accounts not subject to a written pay agreement shall be recorded as a lien against the premises served and are subject to referral to a third-party collection agency.

(7) Unless the city has written instructions stating otherwise, the water meter for all premises being permanently vacated shall be turned off and locked until such time as a new responsible party is approved by the city.

(8) When written notice is received for the reason of temporarily leaving the premises the city shall prorate the base charges and fees and calculate a usage fee based on the actual use of water from the last meter reading. The city shall also charge the responsible party the turn-off/turn-on fee set by council resolution.

(9) The city will bill the responsible party the calculated charges at the responsible party’s address on record or as otherwise provided on the notice, as part of city’s regular billing cycle established in VMC 3.25.045.

(10) Base charges and fees shall be suspended until such time as the city receives notice that services are to be restored or until water use occurs. It will be determined that water use has occurred if and when any digits on the water meter register for that premises have changed from the previous reading.

(11) When written notice is received to temporarily suspend utility service, city will endeavor to turn off the appropriate meter within 24 hours of the time and date requested and to turn on the meter within 24 hours after city receives notice that the repairs and/or maintenance have been completed.

(12) A turn-off/turn-on fee shall not be charged for temporary service discontinuances requested for repairs or maintenance. A proration of the base charges and fees shall not be made and all water used, as determined by reading the water meter register, shall be billed at the standard use rates. (Ord. 531 § 1, 2016)

3.25.060 Adjustments and refunds other than deposits and leaks.

(1) Adjustments and refunds, other than deposits, to utility accounts may be made by the finance director or designee pursuant to the following:

(a) All adjustments and refunds will be reviewed by a staff member other than the staff preparing the adjustment or refund.

(b) All adjustment and refunds in the amount of $200.00 or more shall be reviewed by the finance director, or finance director’s designee.

(c) All adjustments and refunds in the amount of $2,500 or more shall only be made upon motion of the city council.

(2) No retroactive adjustment or refund shall extend beyond three service months nor be granted in amounts less than $5.00.

(3) The provisions of this section apply to all adjustments and refunds increasing or decreasing amounts due on utility accounts.

(4) In the event of a responsible party’s death or bankruptcy, the city may eliminate any unpaid balance on the applicable utility account subject to the procedures set forth in subsection (1) of this section. (Ord. 531 § 1, 2016)

3.25.065 Excessive water leaks – Adjustments and payment terms.

(1) Requests for a billing adjustment due to a leak occurring may be made, using the forms provided by the city.

(2) Adjustments shall only be made if the leak resulted in water use equal to or greater than two times the previous highest monthly usage for that responsible party at the same premises.

(3) Adjustment shall be limited to removing excess sewer charges, if such charges have occurred, and recalculating the water usage charge at the Tier 1 rate.

(4) Payment for the recalculated amount shall be due, in full, under the same terms as the regular monthly utility bill.

(5)  If payment in full is not possible by the due date, the responsible party may request to enter into a payment agreement with the city. City acceptance of the agreement is subject to finance director’s approval. The payment amount subject to the agreement shall be an amount exceeding the average amount billed for water usage to that premises for the preceding three service months. (Ord. 531 § 1, 2016)

3.25.070 Charges for inspecting and testing and broken meters.

(1) When any responsible party submits a complaint that the water use fee billed for any particular period is excessive, the city shall, upon written request by the responsible party, have such meter reread and the service inspected for leaks. The city will not charge for such rereading and inspection unless more than one request is made within a 30-day period. The costs of more than one repeat rereading and inspections shall be charged to the utility account of the responsible party in an amount established by council resolution.

(2) Should such responsible party desire that the meter be tested or changed, such test or change shall be made by the city and the cost of said test or change shall be charged to the utility account of the responsible party in an amount established by council resolution. However, should the test of the meter show a registration in excess of three percent in favor of the city, the amount charged to the associated utility account for such test will be cancelled or credited as the case may be and the balance on the utility account adjusted accordingly. The excess registration, not to exceed the three previous readings, shall be credited to the account. Where no such error is found, the amount charged for such test will be retained to cover city test or change expenses.

(3) When any owner or person receiving utility service from the city shall request a relocation or alteration of the service or meter location, either vertically or horizontally, a determination of advisability of such relocation or alteration shall be made by the public works director or designee. The decision of the public works director or designee shall prevail, subject to the order of the council. In no event shall the meter or service be relocated onto private property beyond the property line, except by order of the council. The cost of such relocation or alteration shall be charged to the utility account of said owner or person in an amount established by council resolution. However, should a service or meter relocation or alteration be deemed beneficial to the city by the public works director or designee, such relocation or alteration may be done by the city whether desired by the property owner or not, and such relocation or alteration shall be at city’s expense.

(4) Whenever a water meter is found by the meter reader to be inoperative, an amount equal to the average water use of the three preceding months and the applicable base charges and fees shall be charged to the utility account for that month. (Ord. 531 § 1, 2016)