Monday, December 7, 2009

Common Council Votes to Allow Water Shut-offs

The details are yet to be worked out by the Middletown WPCA (Water Pollution Control Authority) but the Common Council voted Monday to allow the Water and Sewer Department to shut off water to customers who are severely delinquent in their accounts.

"There is absolutely no excuse," shouted Council member Phil Pessina. "Don't be a deadbeat taxpayer. I have no compassion for those who have not paid their bills since 2005. Because there are a majority of people who do pay their bills."

Pessina was reacting to a concern expressed by fellow Council member Ron Klattenberg who suggested there might be a moratorium on shut-offs during Winter months. In addition, Council member Thomas Serra suggested that each case be considered individually and that special circumstances be taken into account for renters, for those families who have suffered during the recent economic downturn, for tenants of absentee landlords who are paying bills on primary properties but not on rental units and that the WPCA consider instituting payment plans.

Water and Sewer commissioner Guy Russo explained that delinquent accounts prior to 2005 would be considered immediately for foreclosure, and that the most delinquent accounts would be considered for shut-offs using Department of Utility Control (DPUC) guidelines.

Councilman James Streeto, who is also a member of the WPCA explained that the measures were designed to move a delinquent account to payment.

"I don't think we'll see many actual shutoffs," he said. "This is one more tool in the collections toolbox. This is an opportunity to stop the bleeding for an account in which the account holder has no intention of paying in the immediate future."

Councilman David Bauer, another WPCA member said that "This is an extremely limited tool for a very few, very specific type of customer. This is a very drastic measure to go after a specific type of individual who does not pay his bill."

The measure passed unanimously and the WPCA will return to the commission with a specific action plan to be reviewed and blessed by the Council.

In other business, after much discussion about calendar year versus fiscal year, the Council voted to approve keeping rates for Children's Arts Programs at the previous year's rate of $125 for the Activity Standard Rate and $25 for the Flat Rate. Most Park and Recreation fees were also held to last year's rates with the exception of Adult Softball Team rates which will increase to $130.

This was the first Common Council meeting held under new rules in which Questions for Directors is covered in a special workshop from 6-7 PM, and public comment during the regular meeting is limited to items on the agenda. All speakers are asked to sign up to speak, and they are held to a limit of 5 minutes. The regular meeting adjourned just past 8 PM.

Only two speakers addressed the Council. Elizabeth Emery criticized the expenditure of $1000 from the mayor's contingency fund which was assigned to the annual Xavier-Middletown High School football banquet. Emery noted that the banquet pointed out a sense of gender inequality in sporting and sporting-related events, and that the expenditure, though minimal, was a bad symbol in a time of austerity.

Former Council member Earle Roberts reviewed the agenda, and noted several items for which he expressed criticism and approval.

Though the agenda was short, Councilman Klattenberg noted that perhaps the short length of the meeting pointed to success in streamlining meetings with the new rules.


Anonymous said...

Does this event always fall 1,000.00 short? Football is very popular, but at rick of being a Grinch, I must agree that there are similarly worthy projects /activities that go begging. How might one avail themselves of a piece of this grid iron pie contingency fund?

Catherine said...

It's great to see new ideas being tested. Next, I would challenge the council to speak more succinctly: less words, less posturing. Let's get the city business over and done with.

It would be useful to have some professional development for all the commissions and the council. This past spring the town clerk arranged a session on Freedom of Information and running meetings which I found very helpful. Sadly, not every commissioner or committee member attended, so the benefits were diluted. I would encourage more training like this to take place.

Anonymous said...

instead of allowing payment arraingements the council decides to shutt water service and foreclose on properties without knowing what kind of hardship the resident is experiencing. these people need to know that we ellect them to these positions and now we are being slaped in the face. thanks alot Mr. Russo and company