The owner of a mobile home park who owes tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid water bills has reached an agreement with the Village of Whitehall averting the shut off of water to dozens of residents.
The Village Board of Trustees last month ordered a park-wide shutoff if it could not reach an agreement with owner Kevin Gordon by Friday, but Mayor Peter Telisky said the two sides reached a settlement Monday, averting a potential disaster for residents who would have been without water in the dead of winter.
“We are very glad it worked out,” Telisky said. “I don’t know the reason why it went this far but I’m very happy that it’s been resolved.”
Gordon who owns several properties in Whitehall including Molinero’s Mobile Home Park, just south of the village on the northbound side of Route 4, will be required to make monthly payments for the next 31 months or until his debt is paid off, whichever comes first. He will also be required to pay any current or future bills on time.
Telisky said the unpaid bill will not continue to accrue late fees now that Gordon has signed the agreement.
Because Gordon entered into a confession of agreement, if he violates any of those terms or falls into arrears again, the village has the authority to enter a judgment against him and place a lien on the property. The village could also move to shut off the water, but neither side anticipates that happening.
Gordon has indicated that he will pay off his debt in the allotted time, if not sooner.
He owes the village $33,500 in unpaid water bills for the park. He also owes the village several thousand dollars on another property and according to village records hasn’t paid a bill in more than two years. Gordon, who said last week that he was aware of the debt owed to the village, said he often pays his bills several months late to spread out expenses on the properties he owns.
He says a miscommunication between the two sides resulted in the exclusion of certain paper work which held up negotiations.
Telisky said the situation put the village in the uncomfortable position of having to possibly shut off water to 32 households.
“It was an awful situation for everyone but we had no other alternatives,” Telisky said. “This was our only option.”
According to Teliksy, the cost of providing water has increased exponentially during the last decade and when a large bill goes unpaid the burden of paying it is spread out among all other users.
“When you get someone who isn’t paying, you still have to raise the money but it’s getting distributed over fewer people,” Telisky said. “It needs to fair and equitable for everyone.”
The village has been combating unpaid water bills since last March when officials discovered the village was owed approximately $142,000 in unpaid bills.
Officials took steps to recover the unpaid bills and a handful of residents paid their bills in full, a few had their water service turned off and most entered into payment agreements with the village. Anybody who entered into an agreement is required to pay their bill within three years.
The village has also taken steps to ensure the problem does not occur in the future. Officials are moving forward on implementing new billing and accounting software that is more user-friendly. Telisky said the current software generates bills accurately and on time, but the interface is somewhat outdated.
The board of trustees is also monitoring water bills outside the village, where all the delinquent users reside.
Each bill is reviewed by the board and if one is late, a letter is sent to the user notifying them they are in arrears. If after 60 days, the bill still hasn’t been paid, users receive another letter telling them they have another 30 days to pay their bill or their water will be shut off.