Clarks Summit borough council voted 6-1 at the regular council meeting June 4 to increase fees related to the ongoing issue of delinquent sewer payments that result in water shut-off notices.
The vote was the result of an ongoing effort from the council to incur a response from residents who repeatedly ignore delinquent sewer bills and water shut-off postings from the borough.
In May, the council voted on a new sewer repayment policy declaring residents must pay their delinquent sewer bills in full within three payments, three months, or receive special exception or arrangement from the council.
Now effective June 5, residents entering the stages of water shut-off notices as a result of delinquent sewer bills will face additional fees. Residents can expect additional information on an insert that will be mailed with the July 1 sewer bills.
Currently, a resident with a delinquent sewer bill will first receive a letter notifying them of water shut-off if he or she does not contact the borough for special arrangements or to make a payment. Then, the borough’s Department of Public Works (DPW) posts two water shut-off warnings if there no response received after the letter.
Residents now face $25 charges each time the borough’s DPW has to physically post a water shut-off warning to the property, and a $250 fee to turn the water back on if it reaches the point of shut-off, due to fees the water company charges the borough to shut off and turn the water back on.
Councilman Vincent Cruciani pointed out the DPW’s obligation to post the water shut-off warnings causes, “one less service for our taxpayers,” each time the DPW has to post a water shut-off warning on a property. Cruciani added this process is, “an expenditure of tax payer resources to conduct this process.”
However, Councilman Herman Johnson, who opposed the vote, said although the borough has made progress trying to collect delinquent sewer payments, “We (council) created this problem because we did not properly manage this program.”
Borough Manager Virginia Kehoe said the additional fees are ultimately for, “the people that are ignoring every attempt we’ve made to contact them.”
“What we’re trying to do is to get them to notify us,” said Council Vice President and chair of the Sewer Billing Committee, Dominic Scott. “These people haven’t talked to us. We’re sending bills and there’s no response.”