New Bethlehem launches new overdue bill collection process | News

NEW BETHLEHEM — There’s a lot of grumbling these days about ever-rising bills; but a hidden reason why certain costs continue to rise is related to customers not paying their bills.

And New Bethlehem Borough is doing something about it, especially when it comes to long-outstanding garbage collection bills.

“There always seems to be a tally of repeat offenders,” Borough Council President Lisa Kerle said this week.

She explained that on the advice of the new borough attorney, a new tool has been added to the toolkit to deal with unpaid solid waste bills.

In addition to the normal process of issuing warnings, assessing late fees and more, Kerle said repeat offenders will now have liens placed on their properties.

She noted that this legal action is not taken lightly and that the borough is trying to work with those who are a little behind in their payments.

“We understand things happen in life,” she said. “We are working with our residents in these situations to get them back on track.”

But for those who accumulate “substantial amounts” and continue not to pay, month after month, liens are a last dissuasive deterrent.

“These are not accounts that missed a payment,” Kerle said.

Instead, a number of accounts in the borough remained unpaid to the tune of $200 to $500. With a solid waste bill of $54 per quarter, it may take a while to rack up bills in that range.

“It’s not fair when the rest of the residents pay their bills on time,” Kerle said, adding that the new effort is being undertaken to help keep borough rates low even as all other costs rise.

According to Borough Secretary Rich McGarrity, seven liens have been placed on properties so far.

Kerle said liens ensure that if the property is for sale, the sale cannot be completed until the outstanding liens are settled first.

And it’s not just about paying the bill for solid waste management services; officials said $450 in legal fees are added to the costs if a lien is filed.

Kerle, who also serves the Redbank Valley Municipal Authority, said the RVMA had also started placing liens on properties with unpaid bills.

“We’ve exhausted all of our other options,” she said of when to use privileges.

“We are a small community and we want to work with everyone, but there comes a time [when more is needed],” she said. “It just became the last resort to recover those funds and reduce our costs.”

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