Paying bills on time is difficult. Especially a bill with seemingly few consequences for nonpayment.
But as Chattanooga continues its crackdown on more than 57,000 businesses and taxpayers who haven't paid their sewer bills in years, the list of the city's most delinquent entities merits a second glance.
The city itself appears to be the biggest deadbeat, with more than $60,000 in past-due payments to the sewer fund. But spokeswoman Lacie Stone said that, rather than send itself a check, various city agencies merely make journal entries adjusting for the money owed.
Aside from the city, the federal government was dinged for owing the most money on a single structure; it is more than $11,000 behind in sewer payments for the courthouse at 916 Georgia Ave.
The check may now be in the mail, but the feds have plenty of company on the list, which the Times Free Press obtained through an open records request. The list includes a number of well-known businesses.
Eastgate Town Center owes more than $20,000 in past-due sewer bills across its property in Brainerd, including wide swaths of parking lots. Land Rover of Chattanooga owes $4,700 on its sewer bill, while McAlister's Deli on Signal Mountain Road owes $4,400, according to the city's list.
The Chattanooga Choo Choo, perhaps the city's best-known landmark, is behind by $2,100, followed closely by the New Life Seventh-day Adventist Church on Main Street.
The Raw Sushi Bar may have fresh fish, but its $1,972.47 sewer bill has been getting stale, according to the city. And Porkers Barbeque, which owes $1,856.82, is spending more time simmering pork butts than helping pay for the sewer improvements that will prevent Chattanooga from dumping raw sewage into the Tennessee River during hard rains.
While it's possible that some of these ratepayers sent a check after their water was shut off, many of those who owe more than $1,000 have ignored more than 24 bills over two years, said Brent Goldberg, chief operating officer for the city.
Goldberg says the city will continue to shut off water to more than 200 delinquent ratepayers every week until the bills are paid up.
Contact staff writer Ellis Smith at 423-757-6315 or firstname.lastname@example.org.