Gulfport Cracks Down On Delinquent Water Customers

The City of Gulfport kept its promise Monday and began cutting off water service to hundreds of customers with past due bills.

The Gulfport City Council approved a tougher policy several months ago, and warned delinquent bill payers they needed to "pay up", or risk losing their service.

It's mostly a money matter. The amount owed in past due water bills adds up to nearly two million dollars. And those in charge of collecting for the city, say too many customers were abusing the system and not making good on agreements to pay off their debt.

"You're going to need at least 467 dollars and 33 cents," said a clerk in the water department to a delinquent customer asking about his account.

Clerks at the Water Department have been flooded with customers the past few days. Most of the business involves customers making good on overdue accounts.

Of the City's 24 thousand water customers, around 34 hundred have past due bills.

"A lot of these balances are quite old. And people have signed agreements and pledged to pay the city off and didn't honor those agreements. And we went to the city council and said, this is your plan and it's not working. We want to change that plan," said water department manager, Doug White.

Tony and other water department workers are the "enforcers" of the city's tougher plan. He spent the day cutting off water service to a list of overdue accounts. And those customers who got a visit from Tony, were more than just a few dollars behind.

One house he visited owed more than 12 hundred dollars in overdue water bills.

The City of Gulfport gave delinquent water customers advanced notice about the possible disconnection of service. Those customers received a letter in June, giving them 90 days to catch up on their account. The city also took out advertising, giving public notice about the cutoff deadline.

White says the crackdown seems to be working well.

"I think we're touching some feelings because people have been coming in, last week prior to the cutoff and today is the first day of the cutoff period and we've been busy this morning, so I think people are reacting."

Those who don't, may face a visit from Tony or another water cutoff crew.