BARSTOW - A cafe owes the City of Barstow more than $16,000 in unpaid sewer and trash fees. Five hundred and twenty-eight people haven't paid their booking fines from the Barstow Jail. Dozens of home and business owners stiffed the city on tens of thousands of dollars in assessed code enforcement violations.

Together these debts represent more than $578,000 in past due fees and fines owed to the city, some since 1992, that were recently sent to collection agencies, according to documents obtained by the Desert Dispatch on Friday.

The amounts of the 1,242 uncollected accounts vary from $14.59 to $94,000. Most are in the several hundred dollar range and represent unpaid booking fees or sewer and trash bills.

In October, the city assigned some of the uncollectible accounts to four collection agencies in an attempt to collect the debts in exchange for 20 to 50 percent of the total amount owed. It is unclear how successful the collection efforts have been, and city officials did not respond to requests Friday asking about the impact of the unpaid fees.

In July, the City Council voted to update its policy to collect upon delinquent fees and fines and to write off bad debts, accounts that are determined to be uncollectible. At that time, city staff determined that nearly $265,000 of the city's $942,000 in bills waiting to be paid were more than 120 days overdue and would likely not be collected. Recent documents appear to show that the amount nearly doubled in the following months, although it is unclear why.

According to standard accounting policies, bad debts should be written off during the period in which they deemed uncollectible, said city Finance Director Gil Olivarez during the July 2 meeting. It is unclear for how long these policies were not followed at the city.

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Who owes big money?
While most of the unpaid debts to the city amount to less than $1,000, a handful of people or businesses owe significantly more.

Here are some of the bigger debts owed to Barstow, according to the city's record of accounts sent to collection agencies:

o $4,100: Apple Investment Group for code enforcement fines
o $4,362: Travelers Motel for sewer or trash fees
o $5,300: Frankie Cooper for code enforcement fines
o $6,165: Patricia Keen for sewer or trash fees
o $6,631: Western Amusement for sewer or trash fees
o $8,001: Robert McMorris for sewer or trash fees
o $16,685: Hollywood Cafe for sewer or trash fees
o $20,668: Umair Management Corporation for sewer or trash fees
o $22,544: Mian M. Bashir for sewer or trash fees
o $29,865: Heritage Partners Inc. for sewer or trash fees
o $94,133: Self Enterprises for sewer or trash fees

Source: City of Barstow records