SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – The City of Savannah is moving into uncharted waters, for the first time hiring an outside debt collection firm to recover the millions of dollars they’re owed for utility services from thousands of former customers.
Revenue Director Ashley Simpson says many of those in debt to the city, both commercial and residential accounts, were not landowners.
“Many of our closed accounts that carry delinquent balances are the result of a renter who has moved out of that residence and is carrying some type of balance on that final bill. This collector will help us collect this type of debt,” Simpson said.
Professional Credit, headquartered in Vancouver, Washington, is the first outside debt collector ever to be hired by the city. Simpson says it’s a revenue-neutral deal.
“Their payment depends completely upon their success with the collection of this debt,” said Simpson, adding the firm will make twenty-three percent of the monies they recover as payment.
The delinquent customers owe the city more than $6.5 million dollars.
“We do have some internal collections we use on open accounts so that would include things like the application of penalties or interest or disconnection of service for water bills and sewer bills. However, for closed accounts, we don’t have that disconnection of service as an option so using an outside collector is, is a better option for us,” Simpson said.
People with a delinquent utilities account with the City of Savannah don’t have to wait for the debt collector to call.
“We have customer service representatives available here at the city’s utility department who can help you whether you have an open account or a closed account and can talk with you about that balance and offer options for payment,” Simpson explained.
The guidelines for Savannah’s new collection firm have not been finalized yet. Simpson says that it could take a couple more months. The first calls are expected to go out to delinquent utility accounts in January 2020.