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.