Efforts by the village to collect past due water bills have so far produced mixed results.
The assistant village clerk, Julie VanGuilder, said a few users have made efforts to pay at least part of their bills since a letter went out to delinquent accounts last month, and one user stopped by the village to make a payment before the letters were even sent, but most bills remain unpaid.
Mayor Peter Telisky, acting on behalf of the village Board of Trustees, sent a letter on April 20 to the 17 individuals and businesses that have outstanding water bills.
The letter, which included each individual’s bill, stated that users needed to contact the village offices within 30 days of the receipt of the letter notifying officials of their intent to pay and a schedule of those payments.
If users fail to respond to the letter within the allotted time, their water service will be terminated.
The letter went on to state that all outstanding water bills must be paid in full by Sept. 30. If payment is not received by that date, the village will give five days written notice of its intent to discontinue water services.
Water will not be turned back on until users have paid their bills in full, and they will also be responsible for any costs incurred by the village in the process of shutting off and turning service back on.
Although village officials have said they didn’t discover the delinquent funds until March, the issue has been an ongoing problem for at least two years, if not longer.
Telisky has said an antiquated software program the village uses may have contributed to the village’s inability to identify the problem. The village has already ordered a new program that they believe will prevent the problem from reoccurring.
“It happened and we’re going to fix it,” said Ken Bartholomew, a village trustee.
Former mayor Francis “Fra” Putorti tried to collect on some of the balances during his term, and sent out a letter to users in May of 2010.
VanGuilder, who was not employed by the village at that time, said she isn’t aware of any records documenting how successful those efforts were, but Putorti said last month that he sent out between 20 and 25 letters and was able to collect on about half.
According to a tally of the outstanding bills, the village is owed more than $140,000 in outstanding balances on 21 different properties.
That list includes five businesses, which owe between $2,346 and more than $26,000: Jo-Rye Transport, Horican Holding, Bayview Gardens, the Budget Inn and Gorenn Properties. That includes three additional properties listed as owned by Kevin Gordon, who according to his LinkedIn account is president of Gorenn Properties.
All told, the village is owed more than $55,000 by businesses out of a total outstanding of $142,000.
Putorti said Gordon was one of the users who paid his bill in full two years ago, after getting a letter from the mayor.
Attempts to reach the two largest accounts, Gordon and the budget Inn, were not immediately successful.
Bartholomew said he believes one of the problems is that penalties for not paying are not severe enough to compel users to make their payments on time.
Power to compel
All of the unpaid balances are on properties located outside of the village.
In the village, if water users don’t pay their water bill, the balance is reassessed onto their property taxes. If they fail to pay those taxes, they risk losing their property. There is no mechanism in place outside the village, leaving officials with little recourse other than to turn off their water.
The unpaid bills, coupled with the increased cost of running the water filtration plant and water that is unaccounted for, spurred officials to increase water rates by 10 percent.
They have said if they are successful in recovering funds, rates will increase by less than the projected 10 percent.