Water change: Village makes changes to commercial water bills

High volume water users will find themselves paying their bills more frequently after the Village Board of Trustees agreed on Tuesday to change the way its water bills are administered.

The village will begin billing commercial water users every month instead of the three-month billing cycle that is currently in practice.

The change applies only to commercial users—including rental properties—located outside of the village. Officials said the change will affect only a handful of users.

The new billing cycle applies only to those users because there is a mechanism in place that ensures the village will receive its money from users located in within the village.

If a user in the village fails to pay their water bill, the balance is tacked onto their tax bill at the end of the year. If it remains unpaid, the village can take the same steps to recover the money as they would if someone neglected to pay their taxes.

There is no such system for users residing outside of the village.

“We’ve been stung by out-of-village users,” Trustee Walt Sandford said.

“This is something we need to do,” Trustee Ken Bartholomew added.

Last year officials discovered more than $142,000 in unpaid water bills, the entirety of which came from approximately 17 users located outside the village. Steps have since been taken to recover those funds and the board has instituted a number of policies and procedures it believes will prevent the same thing from occurring in the future. The change in the billing format is yet another of those steps.

Under the new plan, commercial users will receive a bill every 30 days, instead of 90 days. If the bill remains unpaid after 30 days, the village would impose a 5 percent penalty, as is current practice, and would send users a notice that their bill needs to be paid within 15 days. If there is still an outstanding balance after 15 days, the village would impose an additional 5 percent penalty and the user would be given an additional 10 days to pay their bill.

“I think you can justify the fees when you consider what we would have to pay,” Sandford said.

If, after 55 days, the bill remains unpaid, the village would reserve the right to terminate water services to that user.

“This doesn’t hurt anyone who pays their bills on time. If you pay your bills on time, you’re fine,” Bartholomew said.

The change will take affect next month.

Latest project reduces un-metered water loss

In other water-related matters, Mayor Peter Telisky told the board that the village continues to make strides in reducing the amount of un-metered water loss.

He said with the completion of the latest water project—the replacement of several thousand feet of water main from the area of South Bay south to Neddo Street—the amount of treated water that is lost has dropped from approximately 700,000 gallons a day to roughly 490,000 gallons a day.

The village, has for years, been trying to plug holes in its water system.

An audit released last year by the state Comptroller’s Office found that the village could not account for 148 million gallons, or 55 percent, of the water that was processed in 2010. The Environmental Protection Agency considers 10 percent acceptable.

Telisky said the latest project, as well as the replacement of a water line along Broadway in 2011 and other repairs have significantly reduced the problem.

The village expects ground to be broke on the second phase of the recently completed water project in the coming weeks. A waterline that dead-ends on Kirtland Street will be modified so that it is a loop.

Bartholomew said the project will reduce the amount of sediment that builds up at the dead-in and in so doing eliminate the need for village employees to periodically bleed the pipes. It should also increase water pressure.

Police to survey junk cars

The board is expected to ask the Whitehall Police Department to survey junk cars in the village and issue tickets to residents in violation of the junk car ordinance.

Last year, the village passed a law making it unlawful for any person to store junked, discarded and unlicensed vehicles within the village.

Those found in violation of the law are punishable by fines of up to $100.

The next meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, June 4.

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