A strategic effort to collect millions of dollars worth of unpaid sewer and refuse bills has so far added more than $880,000 to York City coffers this year.
The owners of nearly 1,500 city properties have settled their balance or set up payment plans in the months since city officials launched a program designed to reward people who came forward and punish those who did not.
"I think we're doing good," business administrator Michael O'Rourke said during a report to the York City Council on Tuesday.
Earlier this year, O'Rourke estimated the city was owed as much as $18 million in overdue sewer and trash bills.
Hoping to collect as much of that as possible, the city offered delinquent account holders the chance to set up payment plans during the month of April. As an incentive, the city offered to waive all interest owed.
But that offer was available for just 30 days in April.
Those who didn't take advantage risked losing water service. With the cooperation of the York Water Co., the city began sending notices to delinquent property owners, giving them as little as 10 days to comply or lose water.
So far, the water has been shut off at 10 properties, O'Rourke said Tuesday.
The collected revenue - which goes into the city's sewer fund for system improvements and maintenance - is coming from a few categories of account holders. In April, 67 accounts were paid in full, amounting to about $150,000.
Water shutoff notices have compelled 135 property owners to set up payment plans - which now include interest.
Another 83 property owners set up plans after April but before receiving a shutoff notice.
O'Rourke estimated that about half of the 1,278 "amnesty" plans established in April are being honored. When account holders fail to stick to the plan, they lose the interest waiver, O'Rourke said.
City officials have stumbled across one problem. They've found about 1,000 vacant properties whose owners are behind on sewer and refuse payments, O'Rourke said.
In some cases, the water has already been shut off. In others, water service is available, but no one's using it. Tracking down property owners in these situations has been a challenge, O'Rourke said.
"We're kind of brainstorming about how to deal with these vacant, boarded-up properties," he said.
- Erin James may also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.