Council cuts time to pay utility bill

First Posted: 1/15/2009

Proposal raises recreation fees

LUMBERTON - The Lumberton City Council is poised to reduce the number of days that utility customers have to pay their bills.
The council voted 7-1 vote during a Policy Committee meeting Wednesday to reduce the number of days utility customers have to pay their bill from 30 to 18 days after the bill is issued. If approved by the full council Monday night, the change would go into effect in November.
Letters explaining the change would be attached to customer bills in September.
Linda Oxendine, public service director, told the committee the change is needed to improve the cash flow at the collection office. City officials said, for the month of August, the average turnaround time for bills returning to the office is 77 days from the day it is billed.
“Right now, customers have 30 days before their bill is due,” Oxendine said. “With the new billing cycle customers will have 18 days. The new cycle of billing structure will result in a seven-to-15-day period between the read date and the bill date, which will occur over the next few months.”
Oxendine said the new structure will be easier for customers to understand.
“This places the dates of service, bill date and due date within closer proximity of each other,” she said. “The bill in September will reflect a majority of August's usage.”
Councilman Robert Shaw voted against the change, saying customers will be confused by the change.
“You are dealing with the real world,” Shaw said. “You are going to have someone with $240 in their hand and you cannot explain this to them because it's their last $240 and they have six other bills to pay. It gets complicated.”

Manager pay raise
Also on Wednesday, the committee voted unanimously to give interim City Manager Dixon Ivey a 25 percent salary increase. Ivey will be paid $85,928. He had been making $67,127 as public works director.
The Personnel, Compensation and Benefits Committee initially recommended a 15 percent increase, which would have brought his salary to $77,847. Other council members suggesting raising that to compensate Ivey's increased workload. The raise will be retroactive to Aug. 4.
Ivey replaces Todd Powell, who was placed on administrative leave on Aug. 4. He resigned the next day, citing health reasons.
Ivey has worked for the city for 31 years. The city manager position has not been advertised.
In other action, the committee:
- Approved Councilman Eric Hackney's request to give $2,500 from his Community Revitalization Fund to Horizon Point, a new child advocacy agency in Lumberton. Horizon Point provides services to children who have been sexually or physically abused. The office serves about 20 children a month. Hackney has agreed to volunteer at the office.
- Approved a request from the Lumberton Recreation Commission to raise athletic and rental fees. The following fee schedule will be effective immediately, pending the full council's approval: Youth and adult athletic fees will rise from $10 to $20 for non-city residents; facility rental increases will range from $10 to $35; gym rentals will increase from as much as $50 for city residents to as much as $70 for non-city residents; shelter rentals will increase from $25 to $30 for four-hour slots, and non-city residents will now have to pay $45, up from $37.50.
This is the first adjustment in eight years, according to Parks and Recreation Director Wendell Staton.
- Denied a request by City Attorney Kevin Whiteheart to settle small claims made against the city that are less than $50,000 without having to bring the issue before the council.
Whiteheart said this would speed up the settlement process. He had requested that it be done for one year only to allow the council to assess its efficiency.

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