News & Resources

Pennsylvania city clears old debt to go after active debtors

Mar 21, 2012 Mike Garretson

The city of New Kensington, Pennsylvania, is owed about $390,000 from five years of unpaid garbage bills and associated interest and fees, the Valley News Dispatch reports. City council has already agreed to write off $75,000 worth, however, controller John Zavadak indicated that there could be more to come. "This is just the first of the write-offs," Zavadak told the news source. "We probably will have more." Much of the old delinquent debt is from inactive accounts that date back at least four years. It has been hard to track down because rental tenants have moved out of the area. However, officials believe that clearing the old debt from the books will allow the New Kensington debt collection department to focus on finding active debtors. The city had taken multiple measures in the past to obtain delinquent debt. For instance, the names of 37 account holders who owed at least $900 in garbage bills were printed in the Valley News Dispatch. The public shaming was apparently effective, as all the debtors paid up. New Kensington also administered an amnesty program last year, offering discounts of between 20 percent and 50 percent to delinquent debtors. Through the initiative, the city was able to clear about $40,000 from its books. Zavadak notes that because of the mounting debt, the city has vowed to adopt tougher tactics for dealing with delinquent debtors. For example, if the person's account is associated with a rental property, the landlord will receive a notice, and if the bill still isn't paid a lien will be filed against the property, making it unsellable until the debt is settled. Liens can last as long as 20 years. Other measures being taken include not allowing occupancy permits on properties with unpaid debt, which extends to unrelated properties owned by someone with a delinquent account from a previous rental area. Furthermore, all unpaid garbage fees will be required to be paid whenever a property is sold. Also, in the future, accounts may be placed under the landlord's name instead of the tenant, increasing the responsibility of the landlord. "We've got to stop the bleeding," Zavadak told the media outlet. In other city news, Pennsylvania's anti-texting law went into effect last week, and New Kensington police chief Ron Zellers told the news source in a separate article that he'll be watching closely for drivers who appear to be sending or reading a message on their phone.