City up on utilities after more than a decade of delinquency

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By Alice Du Pont

After more than 10 years of delinquent payments to Quincy utility provider Progress Energy, the city is current, according to City Manager Jack McLean. For the past two years the city has been as much as 120 to 150 days behind.

"I am proud to say that we have caught up, but it has been a cooperative effort. We did not rob Peter to pay Paul, but we tackled it inch by inch," McLean said. Theresa Moore, finance director, has done an outstanding job helping to manage the cash flow, McLean added.

He said the combination of efforts included the city improving its collections from 84 percent to 96 percent. Collections among commercial customers increased dramatically in the past few months.

"We did a much better job of communicating to our customers the need for them to pay on time. When they pay their bills we are able to pay ours," McLean said.

Personal contributions from citizens who want to help others are also up. McLean said during the most recent cold snap, a local minister donated $600 to the fund that helps the most needy citizens in the city. The money was used to pay the utility bills for three families.

"Another thing that has helped us is that we've tightened our belts. We have fewer employees since 1995 and they have stepped to the plate. Everyone has pitched in," McLean said.

He also gave kudos to the city commission.

"We have had good stewardship and good leadership from this board. They have come up with positive suggestions and have offered genuine help," he said.

Since November, the city has paid Progress Energy $3,668,062.22. Last week Progress Energy sent McLean a memo saying that the city has done a good job.

That's a far cry from the days, not a year ago, when Progress Energy officials told commissioners the city of Quincy was one of its worst customers when it came to payment.