FRONT ROYAL – Citizens will have to put down more money upfront when moving into a new house or opening a business as the town’s utility deposits have increased.

The Town Council at its regular Monday meeting unanimously approved increasing residential utility deposits from $125 to $250 or the amount of the building’s highest monthly bill during the last year, whichever is higher.

For existing commercial locations, the utility deposit was increased from $200 to $500 or double the average utility bill during the last year, whichever is higher.

The utility policy amendment also included the stipulation that a citizen has 10 days to contest a delinquent utility matter after being notified.

The amended policy states that if a citizen does not contest a delinquent bill within 10 days, all services will be shut off. Water was previously turned off 10 days after a delinquency notice and electricity two days after that.

The agenda item for the vote states that the changes are “an effort to decrease the Town’s bad debt on utility accounts.”

Councilman Jacob Meza noted that the “improvements” to utility policies are “to hedge this a little better and make sure that we are not having so much to write off in bad debt.”

The council also approved removing five years of outstanding bad debt from the town’s ledger totaling $15,915 that was owed on 46 utility accounts, which represented about .05% of electric sales.

The council’s agenda item states that “all possible recourse of attempting to collect these amounts has been completed and the accounts have no activity for at least five years.”

Meza said that the amount of bad debts “will become less over time” with the new policies.

According to previous reports, the town wrote off $848,191 of bad debt in 2013; $144,049 in 2014; $225,318 in 2015; $203,808 in 2016; $175,999 in 2017; $166,191 in 2018; and $277,974 in March.

While the town previously wrote off bad debts on accounts with no activity over five years on an annual basis, the council recently decided to do so every quarter.

Councilman William Sealock said that “it has been an extremely long road” to write off the bad debts every quarter instead of every five years.

“We were writing off extremely high numbers and the community was very concerned about that. We decided that it was best to report bad debt on a quarterly basis,” he said

The council also:

• Approved a $422,150 contract with Bushong Contracting Corporation for waterline upgrades on Steele Avenue, Highview Street and Parkview Drive.

• Approved a $7,854 purchase of a mower for the Horticulture Department.

– Contact Josh Gully at jgully@nvdaily.com