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HAVERHILL — The city has made significant inroads into collecting nearly $100,000 from companies that never paid for police officers who provided security at road construction projects, Mayor James Fiorentini said.
The biggest scofflaw, Diamond Contracting, recently paid the $43,000 it owed the city for more than a year, the mayor said.
On top of that, an additional $10,000 to $20,000 has come in over the last several weeks, the mayor's aide, Andrew Herlihy, said.
"A flurry of checks have come in over the last few weeks, it's not an accident," Herlihy said.
The debts goes back several years and involve about two dozens companies, Fiorentini said.
The Haverhill officers who worked those traffic details were paid with taxpayer money because their labor contract requires them to be paid a week after working a job, regardless of whether or when the city receives payment.
The city hired an attorney last month to sue the companies that have not paid their bills, the mayor said.
Most of the money was owed by reputable utility companies such as Verizon, National Grid and New England Telephone, Fiorentini said.
Because so many companies rung up the detail debts, the city ended its practice of extending credit to most of them.
"The pay in advance system seems to be working, people are paying," the mayor said. "We sent a number of items to the attorney to collect and he is confident that he can collect most.
"I am satisfied with the progress we are making and I am satisfied that the new pay in advance rules are working," Fiorentini said.
In a previous interview, police Chief Alan DeNaro said he cut off at least one construction company from further police details until it paid its bill.
"I became uncomfortable with the large number of unsecured, interest-free loans we were essentially giving to for-profit companies," DeNaro said last month. "I was unhappy with the rate of return."
The city's general policy going forward will be to insist upon upfront payment for detail work, Fiorentini said. The exceptions are for utility companies and companies with "deep pockets or good credit histories," he said.
Some large companies that do a lot of road work in the city have given the city retainers of between $5,000 and $50,000 for future jobs, DeNaro said.
Haverhill paid a total of $834,719 in detail pay in 2007, the vast majority of which came from utility companies, private developers and contractors. The city is on pace to pay its officers about the same amount this year.
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