Denton Residents Heated Over Utility Policy - NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

Denton Residents Heated Over Utility Policy

City changes deposit requirement, increases late-fee charge



    Some Denton residents say the city's new utility payment plan has unfair charges.

    Denton implemented the credit and collections policy in January to cut down on debt racked up from customers' unpaid bills.

    "We really felt like we needed to take action to make sure those expenses were reined back in,"said Ethan Cox, city customer service manager.

    The policy changes the department's deposit requirements.

    Change in Utility Charges Angers Residents

    [DFW] Change in Utility Charges Angers Residents
    The city of Denton has put a new payment plan into place aimed at cutting down debt. But some North Texas residents are angry about they consider unfair charges.
    (Published Tuesday, May 17, 2011)

    "New customers that are entering our utilities system and existing customers, we would evaluate their credit and their payment history to determine if a deposit was necessary," Cox said.

    He said customers with poor ratings pay higher upfront deposits.

    The city also doubled the late fee to $20. 

    "The policy has been in place about four months, and we have seen a 23 percent reduction in the number of customers paying late each month," Cox said.

    But Denton resident Carolyn Phillips has helped organize a petition drive to throw out the new policies. She said the new procedures target low-income residents.

    "We know that the city has to function," she said. "We know that people have to pay their bills. We know that late fees are a reality. Reasonability is what we are looking for."

    Phillips said a uniform deposit fee and lower late fees would be reasonable.

    "At the end of the day, I don't think the city is justified to use credit as heavily as they are," she said.

    Cox said the policy is not meant to be a hardship on any one particular group. He said it's simply a revised system to reduce unpaid debt.

    The Denton City Council heard a report on the implementation of the policy Tuesday afternoon. Any revisions to the policy would be up to the council.