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Council passes new utility deposit policy
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Several new policy changes for the city of Covington's utilities services offered to residential and commercial customers were approved at a council meeting on Monday.

The council unanimously approved the first reading of an ordinance which made changes to the deposit guidelines required by residential and commercial customers for utility services; approved a new policy that forms an agreement that will be offered by the city to assist customers with past due balances; and approved a new policy that formed an optional landlord agreement for continuous service.

Leigh Anne Knight, Covington Finance Director, discussed the changes to the ordinance and new policies with the council. She said in a letter to the council that the new policies and ordinance change are a part of an effort to streamline the city's handling of utilities for all customers.

"We want to have something in place so that they are familiar with what we are doing," Knight said. "We work every day with people, but we want this to be our policy so that when going forward, it's easier when they ask us what our policy is. We can say to them this is what our policy is."

Knight said the current ordinance requires that the city charge a multiple of the average bill determined by the applicant's credit history. She proposed the following changes that were approved at the council meeting.

According to the new deposit guidelines, the deposit amounts are defined as follows:

•0 deposit: no deposit required
•Minimum deposit required: one times average bill not to exceed $200
•Extra deposit required: two times average bill not to exceed $300
•Maximum deposit required: three times average bill not to exceed $400
If no social security number is available, the customer will be required to pay a maximum deposit, which is three times the average bill not to exceed $400. If there is no credit score available for the customer, the will be required to pay a minimum deposit, which is one times the average bill not to exceed $200.

If there is no available payment history for an address, the deposits are as follows:
•All services: $400 deposit
•One service of gas or electric with water and sewer service: $300 deposit
•One service of gas or electric with no water and sever service: $200 deposit
Knight said commercial customers will have the same deposit structure with the maximum deposit required being three times the average monthly bill.

When it comes to the new policy, the council approved regarding agreements offered by the city to assist customers with past due balances, Knight said a new agreement form has been prepared.

The form will be completed by the customer service representative who meets with the customer and then the form must be approved by the customer service supervisor or finance director.

According to the new agreement policy, customers will not be allowed to make no more than three agreements a year and will be required to pay half of the past due amount on the date of the agreement. The customers' remaining agreement balance should be paid before the close of two weeks. In addition, the agreement policy states that utility payment agreements will not be made with any customer who has violated or broken an agreement during the one year period immediately prior to the last broken agreement. If the agreement is broken, the past due amount plus a reconnect fee will be paid to restore the services. No agreements will be made on the date of cut off.

The final policy that the council approved deals with an option for landlords concerning continuous service at rental properties.

According to the optional agreement, landlords will now have the option to have the utilities automatically moved back into their name when the tenant moves out of the property.

Knight said this option will eliminate the reconnection fee charged to landlords and will assist them in being able to quickly do repairs or cleanup work on the property in order to get it rented out quicker. She said a letter with the new agreement will be mailed to landlords and if they choose this option, they can mail the agreement back to the city.