City of Española officials have have collected payments from more than half of the water accounts that had been delinquent since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

    There were 504 delinquent Espanola water accounts totalling $900,000 from the start of the pandemic, said City Manager Xavier Martinez to the City Finance Committee on July 7.

    As of Aug. 26, the delinquency amount had shrunk to $356,299, Martinez said.

    The delinquent accounts were past due by 90 days or more, he said. Because of the pandemic, however, the Water Department was not sending out disconnect notices from April through June, though it still assessed penalties.

    Officials began sending out disconnect notices again to 504 water customers the first week of July, he said. The city has a total of 3,247 active accounts for water.

    In July, 504 disconnect notices were sent. In August there were 354 disconnect notices and in September city employees sent 424 notices, Martinez said. There are a total of 424 delinquent accounts as of Aug. 26.

    He said the city government made the determination to begin enforcing the disconnects after looking at the huge amount of delinquent balances.

    City code gives discretion to the city manager to allow people to get on a payment plan, he said. These agreements must be made in writing.

    He said water customers must sign a notarized agreement with the City.

    But city code also prohibits city officials from waiving fees, he said.

    “The goal is to get these huge balances decreased, if not eliminated,” Martinez said. “We are working on that.”

    “We are currently advertising to hire a collections specialist within the Department to have better accountability,” he said.

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