Chapter 53: Utility Billing and Collection

Please note: the presented text comprises select passages extracted from the comprehensive Code of Ordinances.
It is imperative to recognize that the entire and authoritative Code of Ordinances document, inclusive of all amendments, is accessible on the website and represents the definitive and approved iteration.

Section


53.01 Authority and purpose
53.02 Definitions
53.03 Service agreements
53.04 Utility rate schedule
53.05 Billing; collections of accounts; adjustments
53.06 Delinquent accounts; utility shut-off; cancellation of service
53.07 Procedures for appeal of proposed utility shut-offs

‘ 53.01 AUTHORITY AND PURPOSE.


The city provides for the establishment of several utilities, including water, sewer, storm sewer, and
garbage. Additionally, the Elbow Lake Public Utilities Commission provides electrical utilities and has
transferred to the city, under its Electric Service Regulations, all obligations, responsibilities, requirements
and other acts attendant to the billing, collection and enforcement of its fees and charges. All utility rates,
fees and charges have been adopted by ordinance or by the Elbow Lake Public Utilities Commission and
this chapter has as its purpose to provide for the systematic billing and collection of utility charges and fees
and to provide mechanisms for collection and other remedies upon non-payment thereof.
(Ord. passed 8-4-08)

‘ 53.02 DEFINITIONS.


For the purpose of this chapter, the following definitions shall apply unless the context clearly
indicates or requires a different meaning.
ACCOUNT. A record of utility services used by each property and the periodic cost of those utility
services.
CITY. The area within the corporate boundaries of the city of Elbow Lake or the City Council and its
authorized representatives.
CUSTOMER. Any individual, partnership, association, firm, public or private corporation or
governmental agency having city utility service.
(1) RESIDENTIAL CUSTOMER. A customer using utility service for residential (household)
purposes.

(2) CUSTOMER OF RESIDENTIAL RENTAL PROPERTY (SINGLE FAMILY HOME OR
DUPLEX). A landlord or lessor of a single family home or duplex being leased for residential purposes.
Tenants and lessees may not, absent compelling circumstances, be customers hereunder.
(3) CUSTOMER OF RESIDENTIAL RENTAL PROPERTY (MULTIPLE-OCCUPANT
PREMISES). A tenant or lessee of a until leased for residential purposes in a complex or building in
which there are three or more such units shall be considered the customer hereunder. The owner, landlord,
or lessor of such property shall not, absent compelling circumstances, be the customer hereunder.
(4) COMMERCIAL CUSTOMER. A customer using utility service at a location where the
purchaser is engaged in selling, warehousing, or distributing a commodity, in some business activity, in
rendering professional service, or in some form of social activity. In borderline cases where the nature of
the customer=s activities does not differentiate clearly between commercial and industrial, the service is
classified as commercial.
(5) INDUSTRIAL CUSTOMER. A customer using service at a location where the purchaser is
engaged in an industrial activity, such as the operation of factories, mills, machine shops, mines, oil wells,
refineries, pumping plants, cleaning and dyeing works, creameries, canning establishments, stockyards, and
the like that is in extractive, fabricating or processing activities.
UTILITY. Facilities used for providing public utility service owned or operated by city or Elbow
Lake Public Utilities Commission or any service of the city, including sewer; storm sewer; water service;
garbage, solid waste and recycling service; and electric service.
UTILITY RATE SCHEDULE. A schedule of all utility rates and charges set by ordinance of the city,
or by the Elbow Lake Public Utilities Commission.
(Ord. passed 8-4-08)

53.03 SERVICE AGREEMENTS.


(A) Form and execution of service agreements. Each application for general service will be made on
the city’s standard form, which, when properly executed by customer, becomes binding and along with the
applicable rate schedules, rules and regulation, is termed a service agreement. If for any reason an
application is not signed by the customer, the providing of service by the city and the accepting of such
service by the city shall impose the same obligation on each as if a service agreement had been executed.

Utility Billing and Collection
(B) Deposit requirements. Along with an application for general service, all new customers are
required to provide credit references and credit information on the city’s standard form. At the time of

connection, customer will provide a $200 deposit, which will be returned to customer upon receipt of
approved credit and review of the application. If approved credit is not received, the deposit will be held
earning the interest rate allowed by state law and will be returned to customer by mailed check after 12
consecutive months of timely payments. If an account is closed, the deposit will be used to retire any
outstanding amounts from the final bill and, if funds still remain, they will be refunded to customer.
Present or previous customers in good standing with the city are exempt from the deposit requirements.
(C) Contract period for service agreements. The term of the service agreement shall be continuous
until appropriately terminated under this chapter.
(D) Termination of service agreement by customer. Unless otherwise provided in the service
agreement or rate schedule, customer may terminate service at any time by notifying the city not less than
three days prior to the date termination is desired. Customer will be held responsible for all service
supplied to vacated premises until such notice has been received by the city. Notification may be made by
writing, by telephone, or by visiting the office of the City Clerk-Administrator-Treasurer during regular
business hours. Upon any such termination, the electric meter will be removed. Electric service may be
temporarily terminated and billing suspended, upon the request from the customer, for a period of time due
to illness, vacation, or seasonal use. Likewise, water service will be terminated. Reconnection fees as
provided in the rate schedule apply to reconnects.
(E) Property not occupied by owner. Utilities provided to rental or other non-owner occupied
premises, including single family homes and duplexes, but excluding other multiple-occupant premises,
shall be the responsibility of the property owner, and the owner shall be considered the customer. The city
shall not be responsible for enforcing agreements between owners and occupants regarding responsibility
for payment of utility charges. All existing accounts in the name of a non-owner occupant shall be
transferred to the name of the property owner within one year of the date of these regulations. As this
chapter contemplates the landlord/lessor as the customer for these premises, renter shall not have the right
to terminate services. The owner’s request for voluntary shut-off must contain a statement that the premises
will not be occupied at the date of the requested shut-off.
(F) Multiple-occupant premises. If multiple units (more than two) within a premises are served by a
utility or utilities, the charges related to those utilities shall be billed to the tenant or lessee. If the premises
includes any residential property, the customer billed will be the individual tenants or lessees. If the
premises does not include any residential property, the customer can be either the property owner or the
occupants. If circumstances dictate that only one bill can be provided for any particular utility, the owner
shall be the customer, and the city shall not be responsible for allocating charges among multiple
occupants, in such cases.
(Ord. passed 8-4-08)

‘ 53.04 UTILITY RATE SCHEDULE.


The utility rate schedule shall be adopted annually by ordinance of the City Council, except that rates

and fees for electrical service shall be set by the Elbow Lake Public Utilities Commission, but collected
and enforced pursuant to this chapter.
(Ord. passed 8-4-08)

‘ 53.05 BILLING; COLLECTION OF ACCOUNTS; AND ADJUSTMENTS.


(A) Accounts. Except in the case of multiple-occupant premises, all accounts shall be carried in the
name of the owner. Except in the case of multiple-occupant premises, the owner shall be liable for all
utilities servicing the property, whether he or she is occupying the property or not, and any unpaid charges
shall be a lien upon the property.
(B) Billings, due date, and delinquency. All utility accounts shall be billed monthly, unless a different
period is provided in the fee ordinance, and each billing statement shall designate a due date of ten days
from the billing date. An account which is not paid as of the close of business on the due date shall be
considered delinquent. After an account has been delinquent for ten days, a penalty shall be added to, and
become a part of, the delinquent account, at the rate specified by ordinance or regulation.
(C) Adjustments and time limitation on utility charges. When a determination is made that a customer
has been overcharged or undercharged for utility service, whether by reason of inaccurate metering, clerical
errors, or other unintentional causes, the error shall be remedied as promptly as possible, and an adjustment
shall be made for the dollar amount of the overcharge or undercharge for the time period that the erroneous
charges occurred, not to exceed one year prior to the date the city became aware of the error for
undercharges, and the two years prior to the date that the city became aware of the error for overcharges.
(D) Refund of overcharges. When a customer has been overcharged, the overpaid amount will be
refunded to the customer by the city within 60 days of the calculation of the amount of overcharge with
interest.
(E) Collection of undercharge. When a customer has been undercharged, the customer shall be
promptly notified of the cause and amount of the adjustment, and the undercharged amount shall be billed
to the customer separately. The customer will be offered a payment agreement, which allows for payments
of equal installments over a period of time equal to the time over which the undercharge occurred. No
interest or delinquency fee will be charged. In the event that the customer has discontinued utility service
or does so before full payment of the undercharged amount, the customer shall continue to be responsible
for the payment of undercharge on the same payment terms.

Utility Billing and Collection
(F) Exceptions. Refunds for overcharges and collection of undercharges shall not apply to situations
in which deliberate or intentional acts of the customer or anyone acting on behalf of or for the benefit of the
customer have resulted in the undercharge to the customer for utility service. In such cases, the city
reserves all legal rights to collect the full amount of the unpaid utilities without regard to the time limitation
and installment payment provision set forth herein.

(G) Application of payments to customer accounts. All customer payments for utility services shall be
applied in the order of priority set forth below, with all amounts being applied first to the highest applicable
category of priority, any balance being applied to the next lower applicable category of priority, and so on
successively until the full amount of payment has been applied. The categories of priority, from highest to
lowest, shall be as follows:
(1) Administrative charges.
(2) Late payment charges.
(3) Past-due electric charges.
(4) Current electric charges.
(5) Past-due water charges.
(6) Past-due solid waste charges.
(7) Past-due sewer charges.
(8) Current water charges.
(9) Current solid waste charges.
(10) Current sewer charges.
(Ord. passed 8-4-08)

‘ 53.06 DELINQUENT ACCOUNTS; UTILITY SHUT-OFF; CANCELLATION OF SERVICE.


(A) Penalties. After an account has been delinquent for ten days, a late payment penalty of 10% shall
be assessed on all accounts.
(B) Procedures for shut-off for nonpayment. Except as otherwise provided by M.S. ‘ 216B.097 (The
Minnesota Cold Weather Rule) and any other state or federal law or regulation controlling shut-off
procedures for municipal utilities, the following procedures shall apply. When a proposed shut-off is the
result of non-payment of the utility bill:

Elbow Lake – Public Works
(1) A written notice shall be mailed to the customer no more than one day after the utility account
becomes delinquent. In the event that the property served by the utility is occupied by someone other than
the owner thereof, notices shall be sent to both the owner and the occupant of the property. The notice
shall state the total amount due, which may include other utility charges provided by city, the date by
which the account must be paid to avoid shut-off (20 days after the account becomes delinquent), and the
title, address and phone number of the individual to contact to discuss the situation. The notice shall also
state which service(s) will be shut-off. The notice shall also notify the customer of the procedure for administrative appeal of the proposed shut-off, as is explained with more specificity hereinafter.

(2) If the account remains unpaid as of the close of business on the shut-off date designated in the
notices, the utilities shall be shut-off, unless the customer has filed a timely appeal which is pending or
which has resulted in a ruling in favor of the customer. Shut-offs for non-payment shall take place only
during business hours on Mondays through Thursdays.
(3) Any notices required by this chapter shall be sent by first-class mail to the last known address
of each recipient.
(C) Nonpayment related shut-off. City, in addition to all other legal remedies, may terminate the
service agreement and discontinue utility services, or suspend delivery of service, for any default or breach
of the service agreement or violation of ordinance by customer, but no such termination or suspension will
be made by Commission or city without five days written notice, excluding Sundays and legal holidays, to
customer, stating with particularity the manner in which the service agreement or ordinance has been
violated, except in cases of unlawful or unauthorized used. A standard tampering fee in addition to the cost
of repairs to the equipment will be collected. Failure to act pursuant to this section, or to resort to any other
legal remedy, shall not affect the Commission’s or city’s right to resort to any such remedies for the same or
any future default or breach by customer.
(D) Reconnection. After a shut-off has occurred in accordance with this chapter, the customer may
request reconnection of utility services by making payment at the City Clerk-Administrator-Treasurer’s
Office of all delinquent amounts owed by the customer on all utility accounts (including late payment
penalties) and a reconnection fee for utility services to be reconnected. If other city run utility services
have been shut-off, additional reconnection fees may apply. In the event that shut-off was for reasons other
than delinquency, all circumstances leading to the breach and default shall be remedied and the
reconnection fee paid. The reconnection fee shall be set forth in the ordinance establishing the fee
schedule. The customer shall also complete a new service application and pay the required deposit.
(E) The Minnesota Cold Weather Rule. The Minnesota Cold Weather Rule applies from October 15
to April 15. The rule prevents a municipal utility from disconnecting a residential until during this time
frame if the disconnection affects the primary heat source and if the following conditions are met:
(1) The customer has declared an inability to pay on forms provided by the utility or is receiving
energy assistance;

Utility Billing and Collection
(2) The household income of the customer is less than 50% of the state median income; and
(3) The customer=s account was current for the billing period immediately prior to October 15 or
the customer has entered into a payment schedule that considers the financial resources of the household
and is reasonably current with payments under that schedule.
(4) The Commission will comply with all other mandates and requirements of the Minnesota
Cold Weather Rule.

(F) Waiver of liability. The city, its agents, employees and representativesshall not be responsible or
liable for any damages or claims incurred as a result of the disconnection of services whether voluntary or
involuntary.
(G) Certification for collection with taxes.
(1) The City Clerk-Administrator-Treasurer shall have the authorization to file utility liens in
compliance with all statutes of the state relating to utility liens and collections, including but not limited to
the original and amended versions of M.S. ” 366.102, 415.01, and 444.075. Except in cases where the
City Clerk-Administrator-Treasurer becomes aware of a pending sale of property or other circumstances
which make prior approval impracticable, the city and/or Public Utilities Commission shall consider and
approve the lien. If the City Clerk-Administrator-Treasurer files a lien for delinquent utilities prior to city
or Public Utilities Commission approval, he or she shall notify the city or Commission at its next regular
meeting that a lien has been filed. The requirements concerning notice to customer and/or property owner
shall be fulfilled at the time of the filing of the lien.
(2) Delinquent utility charges as of October 31 of each year shall be certified by the City
Clerk-Administrator-Treasurer, who shall prepare a list of delinquent charges each year. Except as
provided hereinabove, unpaid charges on utility accounts shall not be certified to the County Auditor until
notice and an opportunity for a hearing has been provided to the owner of the premises involved. The
notice shall be sent at least ten days before hearing scheduled before the City Council. The notice shall be
sent by first class mail and shall state that if payment is not made before the date of certification, the entire
amount unpaid plus penalties will be certified to the County Auditor for collection as other taxes are
collected. The notice shall also state that the occupant may, before such certification date, attend or
schedule a hearing on the matter to object to certification of unpaid utility charges. The date of the meeting
at which the City Council will certify unpaid charges for collection as other the taxes. In the event that the
delinquency involves rental property, notice shall be sent to the non-occupying owner and the tenant.
(3) The owner of the property shall have the option of paying the balance due on the account until
the date the notice of the certification hearing is mailed. After the date the notice of certification hearing is
mailed, payments will be accepted but will include unpaid penalties.

Elbow Lake – Public Works
(4) Before November 14 of each year, a hearing shall be held on the matter by the City Council.
Property owners with unpaid utility charges shall have the opportunity to object to the certification of
unpaid charges to be collected as taxes are collected. If, after the hearing, the City Council finds that the
amount claimed as delinquent are actually due and unpaid and that there is no legal reason why the unpaid
charges should not be certified for collection with taxes in accordance with this chapter, the city may
certify the unpaid charges to the County Auditor for collection as other taxes collected. Certification shall
not preclude the city or its agents from recovering delinquent charges and interest under any other available
remedy and shall not preclude the disconnection for late payment provided hereunder.
(H) Procedure following certification hearing. For each certification sustained, the property owner
shall have the following option after the hearing:

(1) To pay the delinquent amount listed on the preliminary roll, but without additional interest
after the hearing, within ten days of the hearing.
(2) To pay the certified delinquent amount after the hearing date, but before the county
certification deadline, with interest at the rate set in the adopted rate schedule, accrued beginning on the
eleventh day following the hearing date through the date of payment.
(3) To pay the certified charges as billed to them by Grant County on their property tax statement
with a collection term of one year.
(I) Final certification. Fifteen days after the hearing, but no later than November 29, the certified
roll, minus any payments, shall be delivered to the Grant County Auditor.
(Ord. passed 8-4-08)

‘ 53.07 PROCEDURES FOR APPEAL OF PROPOSED UTILITY SHUT-OFFS.


(A) Authority of City Clerk-Administrator-Treasurer. A customer who disputes the amount of a utility
bill, or who is unable to pay all or part of the bill, may on or before the deadline for the filing of a notice of
appeal, contact the City Clerk-Administrator-Treasurer, who shall be authorized to make adjustments for
errors in bills or to make alternate payment arrangements, such as a Budget Payment Plan, if appropriate,
pursuant to the guidelines set forth in ‘ 53.07 (E) hereof. If adjustments or payment arrangements are
agreed to by the customer and the City Clerk-Administrator-Treasurer, the customer’s
utility services shall not be shut-off on the proposed date; provided, that if payments are not made in
accordance with the agreed payment schedule, the customer’s utilities may be shut-off upon 48 hours
written notice to the customer. Such notice shall be sent by first-class mail, and the 48 hour notice period
shall be deemed to begin at noon on the business day following the mailing of the notice.
(B) Notice of appeal. Whether or not the City Clerk-Administrator-Treasurer is contacted pursuant to
‘ 53.07(A) hereof, a customer who disputes the amount of a utility bill, or who is unable to pay all or part of
the bill, may appeal the proposed shut-off of utilities to the City Council by delivering written

Utility Billing and Collection
notice of appeal to the City Clerk-Administrator-Treasurer prior to the close of business on the date in
which utility services are to be shut-off. The notice of appeal may be made on a form provided by the city,
and in any event shall be dated and signed by the customer, and shall contain the following information:
(1) Name, address, and phone number of customer;
(2) Utility account number;
(3) Date of bill and date of proposed shut-off;
(4) Amount of bill;
(5) If amount of bill is in dispute, the reasons for customer=s belief that the bill is in error, and

proposed adjustment; and
(6) If customer is unable to pay part or all of bill by shut-off date, reasons for inability to pay and
proposed payment arrangements.
(C) Hearing on appeal. Upon receipt of a notice of appeal, the City Clerk-Administrator-Treasurer
shall schedule a hearing before the City Council. The hearing shall be scheduled as soon as practicable,
and no later than 14 days after the date of the notice of appeal. The customer’s utilities shall not be shut-off
pending the appeal hearing. The customer shall be promptly notified of the date, time, and place of the
hearing by telephone, first-class mail, or any other reasonable means. At the hearing, the customer may
present any testimony and evidence relevant to the appeal, and the members of the Council and/or their
designee may question the customer or other persons about any matter relevant to the appeal. The City
Council shall inform the customer of its decision prior to the conclusion of the hearing. If requested by the
customer, the City Council shall provide a written summary of its findings and decision within a reasonable
time period. The City Council shall in any event maintain such a summary for its own records.
(D) Decision of City Council. The City Council may make any of the following decisions, based upon
the facts and circumstances of the case:
(1) That the appeal is without merit and that the customer=s utilities will be shut-off if full
payment of the utility bill is not made within 48 hours after the conclusion of the hearing.
(2) In cases involving a dispute in the amount of the bill, that an adjustment will be made to the
bill and that the customer=s utility services will be continued unless the customer fails to pay the corrected
amount of the bill within 48 hours after the conclusion of the hearing.

(3) In cases involving the customer’s ability to pay, that payment shall be deferred to a
specified date or that a specific payment schedule shall be followed, and that the customer’s utility
service shall be continued unless the customer fails to make a payment in accordance with the
specified arrangements; and that, in the event of such failure, the customer’s utilities may be shut-off
upon 48 hours written notice to the customer, such notice to be sent by first-class mail and the 48
hour notice period to begin at noon on the business day following the mailing of the notice.
(E) Guidelines of decision on appeal. In appeals based on the customer=s inability to pay a
utility bill, the City Council shall consider the following criteria to determine whether it is
appropriate to allow deferred payment as an alternative to shutting off the customer=s utility service:
(1) The customer=s history of payment of utility bills;
(2) The nature and severity of the financial difficulties of the customer;
(3) The assets of the customer available for payment of the utility bill;
(4) The likelihood of ability to make deferred payment(s) as scheduled; and
(5) The efforts made by the customer to obtain public assistance, energy assistance, or
other available resources for payment.
(F) Forgiveness of utility bills. Except in cases in which it is determines that an error has been
made in the customer=s utility bill, the City Clerk-Administrator-Treasurer and the City Council
shall have no authority to permanently forgive any portion of the customer=s utility bill.
(Ord. passed 8-4-08)

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