The city’s top utilities official recommended this week that the city hire a company to help the city collect on unpaid accounts.
George DuFour, the city’s utilities director, said the city had unpaid accounts going back to the early 1980s, which still remain on the books. He urged the city write off the oldest debt, saying it was highly doubtful the city would ever find the people, many of whom may be dead.
He said the city had $256,000 in debt for city utilities from 2002 to 2007, involving 967 accounts. For those years, he said the city had a chance of collecting with the help of a collection agency. The city has been in contact already with five agencies and believes it can enter an agreement that could recover 20 percent of the unpaid accounts.
During Wednesday’s council meeting, Councilman Morris Madrid said the council couldn’t write off any debts because of the state constitution’s anti-donation clause, which prohibits public money from going toward private purposes. But he said the city could place the old debt under a line item called “allowance,” separating it from the more recent unpaid accounts, he said.
Madrid agreed going with a collection agency.
“As long as you follow the procurement rules, that’s the best way to go,” he said.
Councilman Andrew Feldman also supported the idea.
“Even at 20 percent, that’s better than no collections,” he said.
Councilman Diane Moore said she had been told before that the city would turn accounts to collections.
“This is something that needs to be addressed now,” she said.
The San Miguel County Commission has taken a different approach for its unpaid accounts. In April, commissioners voted to take 221 unpaid solid waste accounts off the county’s books, amounting to $114,000. But the county reserved the right to still collect.
The decision was on the advice of an auditor who said the county’s solid waste receivables were too high. Officials said many of the county’s delinquent accounts had inaccurate addresses or involved onetime customers.
In other City Council business
Mayor Tony Marquez said the city would start listing on its meeting agendas the names of those recommended for hire. Historically, the council has voted on hiring of employees without stating who they are. When he was a councilman, Marquez often asked the city administration to state for the record the names of the new employees before votes. Council members have received in their agenda packets the names of the recommended employees, information that wasn’t made available to the public before council meetings.
At Wednesday’s meeting, the council approved the hiring of Billiejo Lucero as a code enforcement officer and Carlos Ortiz as project coordinator. Both of their names were listed on the meeting agenda.
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City Manager Sharon Caballero, who is also serving as interim city clerk, said she is working to get someone on contract to help with the updating of the City Council’s meeting minutes. She said the last council minutes were done in February.
Caballero, who is also the interim finance director, said the council needs to approve a final budget by July 30. She said she was seeking an outside contractor to help with the drafting of the final budget.
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On Wednesday, former Mayor Henry Sanchez, who lost to Tony Marquez in the March election, attended his first council meeting since leaving office. He was there because the council was considering the approval of $3,500 to promote this year’s North-South AAA All-Star games, an event Sanchez has long promoted.
The council approved the request, and Marquez noted that Sanchez was in attendance. The council applauded the former mayor, a retired coach who served as the city’s leader for six years.
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All council members attended Wednesday’s meeting. They didn’t go into closed session after their meeting. The City Council is the only local governing body that doesn’t regularly hold meetings behind closed doors.
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Councilwoman Diane Moore praised Keep Las Vegas Beautiful for its painting of the gazebo in Lincoln Park. She was one of the volunteers.
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Councilman Morris Madrid called Gallinas Volunteer Fire Department firefighter Lorenzo Montoya a “true hero.” Montoya recently rescued a teenager in the cliffs near the Montezuma skating pond
— David Giuliani, Las Vegas Optic