More people are paying their Summit County sewer bills — at least this year.

The number of customers who skipped out on paying has declined for the first time since at least 2005, officials said.

Overall, 4,600 customers owe a total of $2.5 million. County Council certified the delinquent list Monday.

Both the number of customers and amount owed has been climbing for years.

It hit a high of nearly 5,000 customers and $3 million last year. Five years ago, the county was owed more than $1.85 million and there were 3,858 sewer accounts considered delinquent.

County leaders have blamed the rising delinquencies on the poor economy, including a high number of foreclosures. Now that the delinquencies have dipped, officials still are pointing to the economy.

“We’re through the worst part of the recession and people are paying their bills,” said Michael Weant, deputy director at the Department of Environmental Services.

The unpaid bills are rolled over onto property taxes and a 10 percent penalty is added.

The county doesn’t shut off service, use a collection agency or report the unpaid bills to credit companies, meaning there’s little consequence to not paying, other than the financial penalty.

Wel Properties owes the most, $75,920, for multiple properties in Cuyahoga Falls, according to county records. Niederst Blossom Village owes the second-most at $54,299 for multiple apartments in Cuyahoga Falls.

In other business, the council:

•?Accepted the donation of a 4-by-5-foot quilt made in 1889 from Gene and Betty Stalnaker.

The quilt — which contains 20 squares with the names of individuals and businesses — was made by women from the High Street Church of Christ and had been housed at the High Street Christian Church in downtown Akron. The congregation is moving to Green.

Betty Stalnaker had purchased the quilt at a house sale auction in the 1970s for $125.

The quilt contains many well-known family names, including Albrecht, Brouse, Buchtel and Firestone.

“It belongs in downtown Akron,” Gene Stalnaker said while presenting the item to the council. “It doesn’t belong anywhere else.”

The county plans to put the quilt on display at the Ohio Building downtown.

“It’s absolutely gorgeous,” council President Jerry Feeman said.

•?Approved a six-month, $47,226 contract with the county Developmental Disabilities Board to provide a sheriff’s deputy and vehicle for the agency’s headquarters in Tallmadge during regular business hours.

Councilwoman Tamela Lee questioned why the agency needs full-time security, and Councilwoman Gloria Rodgers questioned the extra expense for a vehicle.

The board believed it should have full-time security, said Randy Briggs, legal counsel for the sheriff’s office who also serves on the DD board. No specific incident prompted the move, he added.

Briggs, who said he declined to vote on the issue as a DD board member, said the vehicle was for visibility to let people know about the extra security.

Several council members indicated they supported the contract, given high-profile shootings that have taken place at public schools and buildings.

•?Agreed to continue not paying jurors who serve on petit juries unless they are on a jury longer than 10 days. The county originally approved the change in 2009 as a cost-saving measure and agreed to revisit it in three years.

Under the arrangement, which is now permanent, jurors have their parking validated, and then receive $15 a day if they serve longer than 10 days.

•?Adopted legislation concerning dangerous dogs and wild animals that mirrors the state law.

Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or rarmon@thebeaconjournal.com.