Milford residents still adapting to the city’s new utility billing cycle will soon have to adjust to no longer receiving disconnection notices.

Milford residents still adapting to the city’s new utility billing cycle will soon have to adjust to no longer receiving disconnection notices.

City council voted last week to eliminate the pink disconnection notices that residents currently receive in the mail when their electric bills are past due.

City Manager Richard Carmean said eliminating the notices could save Milford as much as $18,000 a year.

“We have a little less than 8,000 customers, yet we send out about 1,800 notices in the mail each month,” he said. “That costs us close to $1,500 a month in postage, paper, envelopes and having someone drive to Dover to mail out the notices, because they won’t do bulk mailing at the Milford Post Office.”

Carmean said only about 150 of the 1,800 customers who receive a disconnection notice each month actually have their power shut off due to a lack of payment.

“I think maybe what happens is people are throwing away their original bill and not really paying attention until they see that pink notice,” he said. “Obviously, the vast majority of them want to pay their bill because very few customers end up being disconnected.”

The disconnection notices will no longer be mailed out starting in September.

“In the meantime, we’re working on putting together a public notice campaign to inform our residents of the change,” Carmean said.

The city also is working on measures to help keep Milford’s electric customers from having their power shut off unnecessarily, he said.

That will include allowing customers to sign up for email and telephone notification of late bills through the Milford Police Department’s Code Red system, which currently allows residents to sign up for emergency notifications via email and text.

“We still want to give our customers some notice, just without spending thousands of dollars a year on mailing out needless notices,” he said. “If you are a good customer with a history of paying your electric bill, we will not shut off your power without making multiple attempts to contact you first.”

Carmean said disconnections would not occur until about nine days after the due date has passed.

The city’s current rules barring disconnections in extreme weather also will remain in effect. Those rules halt all disconnections on days when the temperature is below 32 degrees at 10 a.m. or the heat index reaches 105 degrees by noon.

City council’s decision to eliminate mailed disconnection notices comes on the heels of changes to Milford’s utility billing cycle implemented this month.

Previously, Milford residents all received their utility bills at the same time with the same due date each month.

Now the city’s billing department has divided Milford into four geographic areas with one area receiving a bill each week. Due dates also have to be staggered by area.

To transition to the staggered schedule, the utility bills for June were prorated to include more than the traditional 30-day billing period. Some customers’ billing periods were for as few as 34 days while others were billed for as many as 50 days.

Next month, all bills will be issued on a staggered, 30-day cycle.

Carmean said the billing cycle changes are intended to make life easier for both residents and city employees.

“Years ago, it made sense for everyone in town to have the same due date,” he said. “But, as our customer base has grown, what we’ve ended up with is customers waiting in long lines to pay their bills on the due date and staff trying to deal with thousands of bills at once.”

Carmean said staggering the due dates should make the process more user-friendly for customers and ease the burden on city employees, whose numbers have been cut in recent years due to layoffs and attrition.

“I understand that the first month is going to be a little confusing for some customers,” Carmean said. “But as we move forward, this staggered billing cycle will greatly improve customer service.”