Court proceedings will begin next week for Sahuarita wastewater customers who are delinquent in paying their bills.

In January and again in June, a Tucson-based process serving company served legal notices to 90 customers who are more than 90 days past due.

Sahuarita's assistant town engineer Heidi Lasham said the notices are just part of the small-claims process.

"So when people don't pay their bills, which is what we're experiencing right now, we go through the process of trying to notify and then they're basically getting served right now to show up in small-claims court," Lasham said. 

According to Lasham, roughly 25 percent of Sahuarita wastewater customers are delinquent.

The town is currently exploring legal and physical processes for terminating wastewater services to residents who are delinquent. In June, town finance director A.C. Marriotti said $33,000 in active accounts was going unpaid and as of the June 30, 2018, the last audited year, $746,760 in wastewater bills was delinquent.

During the adoption of this year's budget, the town put $30,000 toward wastewater termination efforts. The town's legal department is still conducting research into sewer termination efforts and there are no updates at this time, Marriotti said.

"I personally don't like taking people to court," Lasham said. "If people would pay their bills I wouldn't have to go through this. These people have had ample opportunity and notices to actually come forth and pay their bills."

Legal methods, such as process servers and small-claims court, are currently the most extreme measure the town has at its disposal in collecting delinquent bills. Those getting served and taken to court are people who have already gone through the whole collection process and then have their accounts sent back after failing to respond, Lasham said.

"These are people that are at least 90 days past due on their bills and it ranges," she said. "But it's not like it's the people that are having hardships and miss one payment. They are not the offenders of this. These are the people who have been delinquent for a while."

The billing and collections for wastewater changed departments July 1, moving from finance to public works. Lasham wasn't sure how effective the legal notices have been in the past since her department has only recently taken over the process, she said.

The 90 notices are the only notices the town plans to serve at the moment.

"We don't have anymore on deck at the moment," Lasham said. "It's a process that we're starting right now moving forward. The basic premise is pay your bill."

Jorge Encinas | 520-547-9732

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