Mayor Joe McComb recently learned that more than 1,300 local companies are behind on their utility bills. And one of those businesses owes over $2.3 million. The numbers were alarming enough for McComb to call a special city council meeting on the issue next week.
McComb says the city manager sent him the information this week, after he specifically asked about the amount owed by Kane Beef. Margie Rose confirmed that the company owed $2,380,767.65. She also shared details of an agreement with Kane Beef to pay back the delinquent amount. But there was a complication.
"The first check that came in to cover the agreement bounced. And I’m thinking, ‘This is not good,’" McComb tells KRIS 6 News. "It really calls into questions have they got the wherewithal to honor any agreements."
The mayor immediately asked the city’s legal department what could be done, even suggesting that the city cut off utility service at Kane Beef. Since McComb didn’t have the power to do that, he did what he could — call a special council meeting.
First, the mayor wants to find out why it took so long for council to find out about the massive debt. As McComb explains, "Where that communication or that protocol fell apart or didn’t exist, we’re going to address that."
He also wants to ensure collection of the money that’s owed during a time when the city is looking at ways to make up a multimillion dollar budget shortfall.
"We have no interest in shutting the business down. They’ve got a lot of employees out there that are dependent on the work. We want to make sure those people are taken care of. but on the other hand, my obligation is to the 300,000 people of Corpus Christi," McComb says.
"And letting somebody go at $200,000 dollars a month and not paying a bill — that’s just not good business."
The mayor is currently waiting on a report for all delinquent utility accounts with the city. He’s promising the same action for all businesses with past due accounts.
McComb explains, "We’re going to be firm with everybody. We’re going to treat everybody the same. We’re going to either cut your water off or you get your bill current. It’s a pretty simple formula."
"If you’ve been riding the gravy train, the end of the track may be near."
Albert Bausch, CEO of Kane Beef, tells KRIS 6 News that the company intends to pay the city back in full. He also says he’s grateful for the arrangements the city has already made to take care of that past due balance.
Mayor McComb says he and several other city leaders will meet with officials at Kane Beef on Friday to talk about the delinquent account, ahead of Tuesday’s special council meeting.