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The Pocatello City Council has approved a series of changes to the “Utility Billing Services” portions of the City Code. At Thursday’s meeting, the Council voted to allow the City’s Utility Billing Department to hold onto deposits until the account is closed. This change starts on accounts opened after September 30. The deposit will then be applied to the customer’s final bill and any remaining amount refunded to the customer. Previously, if ratepayers made timely monthly payments for 15 months, the deposit was refunded to them. Existing accounts will still receive their deposits if they meet the 15-month requirement. The council also approved changing the required deposit amount from $65 to $150. “From January to December 2015, more than $51,666 was sent to collections. $10,606 of that was paid, leaving just over $41,060 outstanding.” said Cindy Robbins, Utility Billing Director. “By increasing the deposit to $150, the average unpaid bill after two months, we will reduce the amount being sent to collections and reduce the unpaid amount that is ultimately footed by all of our customers.” Robbins also encourages residents to contact the department if unexpected things happen in their life. “If you ever have a situation where you may find difficulty paying your bill, call us or stop in at the office and make payment arrangements,” Robbins said. “Unforeseen circumstances happen and we will do our best to work out a temporary payment schedule.” The Council also reworked the “Access to Premises” portions of the code. The new sections make it unlawful for a person to block, damage, or tamper with any property and equipment that is a part of the City’s water meter system. The changes also establish that any person who turns their water back on after being shut off will first receive fines and then can be cited with misdemeanor theft of services.