Residents get past-due notices

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By David Giuliani

A collection agency last week started sending letters to Las Vegas utility customers with unpaid bills. That’s resulted in many phone calls and visits to the billing office, an official says.

“People are attempting to make restitution,” said George DuFour, the city’s utilities director. In some cases, he said, the names have been incorrect, problems the billing office has tried to resolve.

City Manager Sharon Caballero said the process has revealed errors, but she complimented DuFour for his handling of such issues.

“He has been compassionate to clean things up. He’s been willing to listen to citizens,” she said.

DuFour said people have come up with all kinds of explanations about why they haven’t paid their bills, often contending that past administrations have forgiven their debts. But he said that he has required people to provide such documentation.

He said one man was so combative with his insistence that the city had forgiven his debt, DuFour considered calling the police for help. But DuFour said he was able to come up with a years-old letter signed by then-City Manager Morris Madrid, now a councilman, asking the man to pay his debt. The angry man then quieted down, DuFour said.

“We knew we would upset people. That wasn’t our goal. Our goal was to collect,” he said.

The collective company, Albuquerque-based Advantage Group, is attempting to collect 967 past-due accounts, amounting to $256,000. It gets a greater portion of money collected from older accounts — 28 percent from those 19 months or older. The firm will take in 20 percent from those that are six months old or less.