At the Clinton City Council's most recent meeting, resident Bob Kreitler spoke before the Council about a missing ordinance that addressed an increase in the fines for late water utility payments.
The ordinance itself, has always been in effect and according City Administrator, Tim Followell, the reason it appears incorrect is because on the city's website, there was an error when the ordinance was put in. Followell explains because changing city code online is quite costly, the city tends to wait until they have enough changes to warrant the charge.
The delinquent fee recently was increased from $25 to $50. Followell explains the $25 fee was simply not getting peoples attention to pay the bill. Followell says they had hundreds of delinquent bills before the fee was increased, and obviously the increase is working because the number of late payments is beginning to decrease. Followell says there's an easy fix to avoiding the late charge: pay on time.
Because of unpaid bills, the city has found themselves in a big hole. Followell says this boils down to finding a better method of getting the bills collected.
Nothing about the issuance of bills or the dates bills are due by has changed. Followell says the only thing that has changed is the $50 delinquency charge.
Below is the letter issued by the city informing residents of the increase in fines:
To All City Water Customers
My name is John Wise and I’m the current City Commissioner of Public Property which includes the City of Clinton’s drinking water system. Over the past year we have experienced a year of ups and downs within the operation of the Water Department.
As you may have read in the local newspaper we are currently constructing a new water well which will take Clinton in to the future for years to come in regards to the availability of drinking water for this community’s residents. Since we just built the water treatment plant everything for the future of the water department to provide drinking water is in place for some time to come.
The item which has been difficult on the operation of the water plant has been the ever changing price for the chemicals to treat your drinking water. This is why we have been searching long and hard to find better alternatives for purchasing the needed materials to operate the plant. With this being the case we will be adding a slight increase to the water rate which will be reflected on your May bill. The increase will only amount to 3%, which is very minimal and just meets the needed expenses in operating the plant.
Another item which has occurred during the past year is the amount of uncollectable fees within the water billing department. This is covered within the City Code for the City of Clinton and we will be taking a very hard line in regards to the uncollectable amounts and residents involved within those amounts. With the amounts growing it just makes the burden more on those customers who pay their bill in the fashion required during the billing cycle allowed by the City Code. Below you will find that section of the code and how it reads;
7-8-6-2: LIABILITY FOR CHARGES:
The owner of any lot, parcel of land or premises using or receiving waterworks services of the city, the occupant of such premises and the user of the services shall be jointly and severally liable for the payment of charges for such use and services to such lot, parcel of land or premises, and all services are rendered to the premises by the said city only on the condition that such owner, occupant and user shall be jointly and severally liable therefor to the city. (Ord. 516, 4-15-1991)
7-8-6-4: NONPAYMENT OF BILLS; TURN ON FEE:
If any bills for the waterworks service shall remain unpaid after thirty (30) days following the rendition of the bill therefor, the water supply for the lot, parcel of land or premises affected shall be cut off and shall not be turned on again except on payment in full of the delinquent charges therefor, in addition to the payment of a charge of the current turn on fee will apply.
As you can see in the two sections above, the owner, occupant and/or user are responsible for any unpaid water account and with the growing uncollectables we have no alternative but to start practicing the collection process according to the language given and governing us in the City Codes. This means we will start shutting off any delinquent accounts following the thirty (30) days of any account remaining unpaid. There will be NO MORE setting up payments for anyone on an unpaid balance. Also, in regards to the TURN ON FEE it will be increased to $50 from its current amount.
With the City Code language and the laws and rules which govern how municipalities must run we will be starting this practice for the billing period starting May 1, 2012. This gives any of our water customers who had been previously set up on a payment plan the time to get caught up before the May 1, 2012 start.
Again, the raises to the water rate fee is minimal and should not create a large difference to any one individual, we don’t enjoy having to raise rates any more than anybody else but cost do change and you have an obligation to keep a quality product available at all times for our community.
If you have any questions of me on this call the water department at City Hall (217) 935-3432 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you very much for taking the time to read this and I’m always open to suggestions.
Commissioner of Public Property