"They're running off a leaving us with big bills," Mayor Earl "Buddy" Rogers said at the Tuesday, April 12, city council meeting.
The city provides electric, sewer, water and trash service to 1,213 customers and charges new customers a deposit of $200 for electric, $25 for water and $8.25 for trash service, for a total deposit of $233.25.
Those with a letter of credit from a previous power supplier receive a $125 discount.
The city began keeping computerized records with a Data Tech system in 1999.
City utility clerk Cindy Callahan said Thayer began accumulating more unpaid electric bills when the price of propane jumped.
Many renters who could not afford propane then used space heaters, which cost more to run, she said.
"It's a catch-22 situation," City Clerk Donna Martin said.
Callahan now has 13 pages of names (about 625 total) who owe the city for utilities.
The city council agreed to begin work on an ordinance to increase the deposit for renters to $400.
Alton and Koshkonong
By comparison, the city of Alton charges renters a $100 deposit for water, sewer and trash service. The city does not supply electric.
Alton homeowners pay a $50 deposit.
The city has about 100 water hookups.
City utility clerk Angie Rackley said Alton is owed about $3,181 in unpaid utilities since 2004, the year the city began using the Data Tech system.
Several years ago, the city charged a $30 deposit, which was increased to $50, and then to $100.
"Going to $100 helped us out a lot," Rackley said.
The city of Koshkonong has charged a $125 deposit since 2007 and has about 100 hookups.
Clerk Chris Trobaugh said city utility files are not computerized, so calculating unpaid bills would be a time-consuming task.
At the Thursday, April 14, city council meeting, Trobaugh said the city's utility deposit account has grown to $8,577, indicating many residents have moved out without collecting their deposits.
Trobaugh said the money will be turned over to the state's unclaimed money account after a thorough accounting, which will be added to her major projects list.