Look Back: Auburn Water Fraudsters Will Run Dry | Story

August 28, 2007

The city will no longer go with the flow when it comes to overdue water bills.

A measure recently passed by the Auburn City Council allows the city to turn off water when people don’t pay, rather than the previous policy of adding the unpaid water bill to property taxes.

The city currently has 1,000 overdue accounts out of 8,500, according to Comptroller Lisa Green.

“I think once people hear about the policy change, they’ll just pay their bills,” Green said.

People will be notified 30 days after the water payment deadline. The city will send another notice after 60 days.

This last note will state that the city is giving the resident an additional 10 days to pay before city employees turn off the tap. With 20 days to pay the initial bill, the process gives a person three months before taking the final step.

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Residents will then have to pay their entire outstanding bill, along with a $50 shutdown fee and a $50 water reopening fee to reconnect to city water.

The previous policy imposed a five percent fine and then included the sum on residents’ property tax bills.

“That will no longer be an option,” City Manager Mark Palesh said at the council meeting.

Unpaid water bills of almost 12% are affecting the cash flow of the water fund and Green has to borrow money from the general fund to cover this shortage, she said.

To deal with the city’s plethora of tenants, the policy also calls for workers to post notices on buildings in addition to notifying owners of structures. Previously, the city sent certified mail to the owner and occupier. The home notice letter is less expensive for the city and also has a better chance of reaching tenants, as the city may not have accurate records of the identity of the current occupant.

Politics affects residents, but not cities. Owasco owes the city $350,000 since June 30. Local and state authorities are checking the city’s books as part of an ongoing investigation.

— Compiled by David Wilcox

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