Chapter 9.02
UTILITY CHARGES

Sections:

9.02.010    Utility billing.

9.02.020    Payment – Delinquency.

9.02.030    Temporary discontinuance of services.

9.02.010 Utility billing.

(1) The city of Wenatchee provides water, sewer, storm drain and contracts for garbage service. The city’s finance department shall bill the city’s customers for these services at rates established in WCC 9.12.540 (water); 4.08.035 (sewer); 9.16.060 (storm drain), as they now exist, or as they may hereafter be amended. The finance department shall also collect the city utility tax as established in WCC 5.84.020.

(2) Prior to receiving utility service, the owner of the property being serviced shall sign in for service by coming into City Hall, faxing, or emailing a completed sign-in form with a copy of the customer’s valid United States issued photo identification to ensure accuracy of billing and identification of the responsible party. Owners of the property may authorize their tenant to be responsible for the utility bills on single-family residences or commercial businesses; no tenant will be allowed to sign in as a responsible party for multifamily units. A new account setup fee as established in WCC 1.99.060 will be charged to all new accounts except when the account is returning to an existing landlord. A deposit may be required per WCC 1.99.060 when a utility customer’s current or prior history shows collection efforts, i.e., water shut off, lien notices, bankruptcy, nonsufficient fund payments, etc. The deposit shall not bear interest and will be applied to the customer’s final bill or upon application, to the account 12 months after payment of the deposit, providing the customer has maintained a good payment history.

(3) The finance department will establish a cycle to bill commercial customers monthly and residential customers bi-monthly. All services and taxes shall be jointly billed on one statement. All payments received shall be credited to the oldest charges first and current charges last. The payments will be applied in the following sequence: utility deposits, estimated utility taxes, penalties and miscellaneous charges, stormwater charges, sewer charges, and lastly water charges.

(4) Customers applying for and meeting senior, active military reserve service member, or disability requirements and meeting the low income guidelines as established in RCW 84.36.381(5)(a) for two-income households and RCW 84.36.381(5)(b)(ii) for single-income households will be billed at low income rates.

(a) A “senior” is defined as a person 62 years of age or older;

(b) A “disabled person” is defined as a person receiving one of the following:

(i) Social Security disability income (SSDI);

(ii) Supplemental security income (SSI);

(iii) Permanent total disability compensation from the State of Washington Department of Labor and Industries;

(iv) A letter from a physician stating the person is legally blind; or

(v) Payments for veterans discharged with a disability.

(c) “Active military reserve service member” is defined as a person who is a member of the National Guard or Armed Forces Reserves of the United States called to and remaining on extended (one continuous month or more) active duty status; and

(d) Proof of age, active military reserve status, or disability and the household income must be provided with the initial application. The person eligible for the discounts must be the responsible party or spouse/partner of the responsible party. Household income will be verified at least annually.

(5) All residential customers have the option of budget billing or an equal payment plan without limiting availability to certain months of the year, without regard to the length of time the customer has occupied the premises, and without regard to whether the customer is the tenant or owner of the premises occupied, as provided by RCW 35.21.300(4) provided the customer maintains a good payment history.

(6) At any time before disconnection or the lien filing date a customer may dispute the correctness of all or a part of their bill in accordance with the provisions of this section. A customer shall not be entitled to dispute the correctness of all or part of the amount if all or part of the amount was the subject of a previous dispute under this section.

(a) The procedure for customer disputes shall be as follows:

(i) The customer shall notify the finance department in writing that the customer disputes all or part of the amount shown on their utility bill, disconnection or lien filing notice, stating as completely as possible the basis for the dispute.

(ii) If the finance department determines that the present dispute is untimely or that the customer previously disputed the correctness of all or part of the amount shown, the finance department shall mail to the customer a notice stating that the present dispute is untimely or invalid. The city shall then proceed as if the customer had not notified the city of the present dispute.

(iii) If the city determines that the present dispute is timely and valid under this section, the city, within three days after receipt of the notice, shall arrange an informal meeting in person or by phone, between the customer and the finance department.

(iv) Based on the city’s records, consisting of the disputed utility charges and all other relevant materials available to the finance department, the finance department shall resolve the dispute, attempting to do so in a manner satisfactory to both the city and the customer.

(v) Within five days of completion of the meeting, the finance department shall communicate the decision to the customer.

(b) The decision shall be final and binding on the customer and the city.

(c) Utilization of this dispute procedure shall not relieve a customer of their obligation to timely and completely pay all other undisputed charges and/or installments and surcharges, and the undisputed portion of the bill. Notwithstanding this section, failure to timely and completely pay all such undisputed amounts shall subject the customer to the disconnection of water service and/or filing of a lien in accordance with the provisions of this chapter.

(d) Until the date of the finance department’s decision, the city shall not terminate the water service or file a lien for the service address and shall not issue a disconnection or lien filing notice solely for nonpayment of the disputed amount. If it is determined that the customer must pay some or all of the disputed amount, the city shall promptly mail to, or personally serve a notice, which shall contain the following:

(i) The date of the notice.

(ii) Any past due amount to be paid and the date of disconnection or the lien filing date, which shall be at least 10 days after the date of the notice.

(iii) The current balance due, if any, and the due date of the current balance.

(iv) Unless the city receives complete payment of the amount shown prior to the disconnection or lien filing date, water service shall be terminated or the lien will be filed.

(7) A utility assistance program for qualifying low income residential customers is hereby created. The finance department shall develop and maintain policies and procedures to manage this program within the following guidelines:

(a) “Qualifying low income” shall be defined as gross combined household income, including spouse or co-tenant(s), at or below 88 percent of Section 8 Housing Median Income;

(b) The utility account must be in the customer’s name and the customer must reside at the service address;

(c) Customers are eligible for utility assistance once every 12 months and income eligibility must be verified each 12-month cycle;

(d) Customers receiving the city’s senior/disabled discount do not qualify for the utility assistance program;

(e) The total program assistance plus administrative fee is capped at $100,000 per year plus any program donations for the first three years, terminating December 31, 2020. (Ord. 2017-23 § 1; Ord. 2016-15 § 1; Ord. 2009-33 § 1; Ord. 2007-32 § 1; Ord. 2007-04 § 1)

9.02.020 Payment – Delinquency.

(1) All payments for city utility charges are due and payable 25 to 30 days after the billing date. On the thirty-third day after the billing date, a late charge as established in WCC 1.99.060 will be applied against the entire past due balance and a late or disconnect notice will be mailed to the owner and tenant/occupant.

Failure to receive mail will not be recognized as a valid excuse for failure to pay rates when due. Change in ownership of property and change in address must be filed at the accounting office as provided in WCC 9.02.010(2).

It shall be the duty of the finance director to ensure all meter readings and account records and all utility consumers are billed the proper charges and penalties, the account balances are evaluated for activity and the appropriate collection efforts are taken.

(2) Water service will be disconnected if no payment is received by the forty-fifth day after the billing date during the hours of 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday. If water service is terminated for nonpayment the city’s water service personnel will leave a door hanger to inform the occupant that water has been terminated. The city’s field personnel cannot accept payments from customers/occupants. Service will be restored after the full amount due plus a disconnect/connect charge, as established in WCC 1.99.060, has been paid or acceptable payment arrangements have been made with finance department staff. Disconnect/connect fees may rarely be waived by the finance director or accounting supervisor if extenuating circumstances warrant such an action. If a customer makes a payment after 4:30 p.m., the water will not be reconnected until the next morning. If a customer wishes to have their water reconnected after 4:30 p.m., they will be charged the after hours rate per WCC 1.99.060. The termination of services does not relieve the customer of the obligation to pay all outstanding bills and charges. If water cannot be disconnected, further collection action will be taken depending on the services provided, which may include sending the customer to a collection agency, and charging additional collection fees.

It is unlawful for any customer at any time to enter the water chamber to turn on their water service. Any damages to the meter or chamber will be charged to the customer’s account per WCC 1.99.060. Each time a water service crew returns to the customer’s meter to turn the water back off a fee will be charged per WCC 1.99.060. If necessary, the water meter may be pulled or locked and a fee per WCC 1.99.060 will be charged to the customer’s account.

(3) Should the account be in the owner’s name, and said account becomes delinquent and subject to shutoff for failure to pay utility rates, or should the owner request the services to be terminated, and the city have knowledge that the owner is not an occupant of the property, the city shall give the tenant 10 days’ advance written notice prior to terminating service, giving the tenant the opportunity to put the services in the tenant’s name or work with their landlord to make payment. When the mailing address for the owner/responsible party of the bill is not the service address and a disconnect notice has been mailed to the service address through the city’s normal collection efforts, the disconnect notice will be considered sufficient notice to the tenant for this section. Should the tenant fail or refuse to put the services in the tenant’s name and the delinquent balances remain unpaid, the city shall terminate the water services on or after the tenth day. If the city has no reason to believe that the premises are occupied by anyone other than the owner thereof, the city may terminate the water services to the premises in accordance with its ordinances, but may leave a notice at the residence where the services are terminated informing any tenant residing there of the opportunity to put the service in the tenant’s name. Water services will be restored without charge if the tenant requests service restoration and agrees to be responsible for the service charges incurred from that point forward.

(4) In the event any fees or charges assessed for these services are not paid within 45 days after billing further collection action may be taken which may include additional fees per WCC 1.99.060, a lien, and foreclosure on the property. If foreclosure action is taken all costs, including attorney fees, for such action will be added to the balance due.

The city shall have an automatic lien without filing for one year’s delinquent and unpaid charges and fees for sewer and storm drainage services as established by RCW 35.67.215 and Ordinance 2016-15 including without limitation service charges, assessed against all premises to which service was furnished, which lien shall have the superiority established by RCW 35.67.200 and shall be foreclosed in the manner provided in RCW 35.67.220 et seq. (Ord. 2016-15 § 1; Ord. 2007-04 § 1; Ord. 2000-37 § 1; Ord. 99-34 § 1. Formerly 9.02.010)

9.02.030 Temporary discontinuance of services.

Should it be desired to discontinue the use of all the water supplied to any premises for anything other than a temporary water line repair, a written notice must be filed with the finance department on a form provided for that purpose. The notice must state whether or not the premises is occupied by a tenant. Any outstanding balances and current charges must be paid.

A service fee will be charged to customers requesting their water turned off as established in WCC 1.99.060. (Ord. 2016-15 § 1)