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Scott PSA cracking down on overdue water payments

CLIFFORD JEFFERY • May 13, 2007 at 11:36 AM

GATE CITY - With summer fast approaching, Scott County residents can expect their water bills to increase.

Most people's bills go up in the summer, said Scott County Public Service Authority Executive Director Dan Danko.

People fill pools, water lawns and gardens, and wash cars, he said.

All that water adds up. And with sewer costs tied to water usage, it adds to residents' sewer bills too.

Not everyone in the county has sewer service, but those who do know that it costs more to get rid of their water than it costs to buy it.

Those who are going to fill a pool can call the PSA and have the amount used for the pool deducted from their sewer bill, Danko said.

PSA personnel determine each resident's water usage by reading the meters outside their homes each month.

"We try to read our meters on the 14th and 15th and 16th of each month," Danko said. "But with weekends, storms, foul weather or sicknesses at the department, we can't always make it out. We have no control when the 15th falls on a weekend."

On the first day of reading, 10 PSA employees go out.

"You could take 10 people out on a Saturday and pay them time and a half to read meters, but that wouldn't help reduce anyone's bill," he said.

Sometimes, meters don't get read until the 17th or later if readers cannot get out earlier.

While about 2,100 of the meters are "touch read," another 1,690 require personnel to open the meter lid, clear away any water, mud or leaves, and read it by sight. That takes some time to do, Danko said.

If there is an extra four days of water usage on someone's bill, they may get upset, Danko said. The PSA tries to be fair with people, but Danko emphasized that those bills go toward the water and sewer system.

"People look at us as being part of the tax base, but we're not. We are revenue based," he said. "If we don't collect $10, we can't spend $10."

The PSA recently began cracking down on those who try to wiggle their way out of paying for service.

"In the past, we've been accommodating. If people came in and say they can pay $20 on a $40 bill, we'd do that. Then the next month they may pay $30 on a $50 bill. Now they are $40 behind," Danko said.

At a PSA board meeting, Danko told members if someone cannot make a $50 payment one month, they are probably not going to be able to make a $150 payment in three months.

"We had them in arrears of $350. If you can't pay $50, you sure can't pay $350," he said. "We are contributing to their hardship by extending them that credit."

Now, Danko said the PSA is stricter about users staying above water with their bills.

"We have a $75 deposit. If their bill is $150 and they don't pay it, we'll cut them off. If it is under that $75 - say $40 - we won't. But if they don't pay the $40 and the next month it is $90, we will cut it off if they fail to pay it."

Danko said the PSA's graciousness in the past was often abused.

"One user had a $300 bill and he moved," Danko said.

"By being more efficient in collections, we won't have that many people who are past due," he said. "We fee like we're helping these people by making them stay current."

Danko said there is a hardship form that residents can fill out if they have extenuating circumstances, such as job loss or a death in the family. They can also set up a repayment plan. While paying monthly bills, they can pay a little each month toward an unpaid bill.

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