Water & sewer bills still on council’s radar

by Geoff Fox

Hancock officials went into another discussion of the town’s water and sewer ordinance during their April town meeting.

Mayor Tim Smith said town officials hadn’t introduced anything new in regards to the water and sewer ordinance, but were enforcing rules already in place.

The current administration “cleaned it up a little bit” and is starting to enforce payment timelines the way they “should be enforced,” he said.

Some residents have questioned officials how the town could shut off a resident’s water after 30 days of not paying their bill.

Smith likened the situation to someone not paying their electric bill on time and the electricity being shut off.

After sitting through an audit of town finances, Smith said it comes down to the bottom-line numbers and debts owed, as the town needs to show.

Enforcing the ordinance was a way to allow people to be able to keep up on their payments and avoid getting behind, and to balance out the town’s audit, he explained.

Smith said every other municipality has a similar ordinance and policy.

Town residents can pay bills online, but Smith issued a warning about that method.

Town offices close at 3:30 p.m. so payments have to be made by the close of business and with enough time to verify payment of the bills.

“We have no way of knowing if you have sufficient funds there to pay that,” he said.

The mayor said people would have to come up with a better plan if they are paying online, such paying on Wednesday by a certain time so it has time to post.

The town has run into problems like this where the water was shut off and a customer told them they paid the bill online, but it was done at 4 p.m. on a Friday.

Kuczynski said the limitation online payment could also come into play with checks and disconnect notices.

The town does take checks, cash, and money orders as well as debit cards for payments.

If a shut off notice is sent out, however, checks are not accepted for those final payments.

When the notice is placed on the door of a residence, it is clearly noted only cash or money order accepted. This is the only time the town does not take a check.

This was implemented three years ago, Jody Finney told town officials.

Kuczynski said the point was to tighten town rules up where there was some ambiguity.

Smith said some people may be upset with the move, however officials have to do what they need to do as a body to keep the town rolling.

There have also been instances where residents have actually opened meters after being shut off and restarted water service.

Since that is town property, Smith said they’d have to enforce people tampering with those as well.

“Unfortunately, we’re just doing what this body needs to do,” he said.

McCusker said he would feel better about cut-off notices if the town would get a better system where they would email bills as well as trying to go to an auto-pay system.

He added it would be easier for town employees as well.