In a special noontime meeting, the board heard from Linda Hudspeth, co-owner of Professional Credit Management of Mountain Home, Ark.
The board unanimously supported hiring the agency to begin attempts to collect unpaid utility bills from city customers, many of whom are renters who have moved away.
The agency charges fees of 35 percent of the money recovered if the agency does not have to file a lawsuit, or 40 percent if a lawsuit is filed. The city does not pay a fee if no money is recovered.
Hudspeth said the agency has a higher-than-average success rate of collecting on old debts, mostly because it does not give up easily.
"We call and call and call," Hudspeth said.
The agency first tries to collect a debt in full. The second option is to work out a payment plan. The third course of action is to obtain a lien against property, Hudspeth said.
"If we do file suit, we get your permission first," she said.
Hudspeth said the agency allows debtors 45 days to pay before the debt is reported to a national credit bureau.
Hudspeth said collectors, however, are not "miracle workers," who can collect on every debt.
"People used to hate to be turned over to collection agencies," she said. "Now, they don't care."
Thayer utility clerk Cynthia Callahan said she has 13 pages of names (625 total) of people who owe the city money. Some bills are more than $800, she said.
Some of the bills date to the mid-1990s.
Also in August, the board unanimously approved an ordinance to increase utility deposits for new customers to $400 for renters and $150 for homeowners.