GALLIPOLIS — Among the topics of discussion during a special meeting of the Gallipolis City Commission held on Tuesday evening were delinquent water and sewer accounts within the city.
City Auditor Annette Landers presented a list of delinquent water/sewer accounts, and the commission later approved the list to be certified to the Gallia County Auditor’s Office where the bills will be placed on the taxes of those responsible for the delinquent bills.
Landers reported that those bills that are being certified to the county auditor are the responsibility of those individuals who failed to respond to multiple requests from her office to pay the late bills.
“These are the ones that did not respond to many requests. I sent out letters back in April, and I followed that up with phone calls if I had telephone numbers for people,” Landers said.
During the discussion, City Commission President Jay Cremeens expressed his concern over the possibility of those who are delinquent in receiving a second water/sewer account at a new residence within the city.
Landers reported that the employees at the utility office are diligent in keeping track of those individuals who are behind on their payments and deny additional water/sewer accounts to those customers.
According to Landers, as the current list of overdue bills are being certified to the county auditor, the customer would need to bring proof of payment for that account before a second water/sewer account can be opened in the city.
“What would happen here, because this is going down to the county, they would have to go down to the county and get this bill taken care of first, bring us a receipt and then they could get service,” she said. “They are pretty careful about that.”
Additionally, the city auditor reported that in landlord-tenant situations, the city remains persistent in denying new water/sewer accounts at a second location for tenants with overdue bills.
“We do try to go after them as much as possible,” Landers commented.
The auditor also stated that, in the rare cases where the city itself has neglected to follow its own policies and not shut off a tenant’s water in a timely manner, the landlords are credited for the excess time that the account has remained active.
It generally takes three months of delinquency for the city to shut off a customer’s water.
“If we are at fault, in other words, if we have not followed our own policies in going out and shutting off the water in a timely manner … my policy has been in the past, if it’s anything beyond three months, I look at the situation very hard to see if we have been at fault, and, if we have, what we will do is we will go ahead and write off those later months because they should never have happened,” she said. “That is only in a landlord-tenant situation. If it’s the person who owns the place they live in the place, there is no write off. Period.”
Gallipolis City Solicitor Adam Salisbury also reported that he has been working on the criminal end of the water/sewer delinquency situation over the past few months, and, with the help of the water department, has filed several misdemeanor criminal complaints against those individuals who are stealing excess water even after their water has been turned off by the city.
According to Salisbury, these individuals were guilty of either cutting the lock off of the water meter and turning the utility back on themselves or with tampering with the meter so that they could receive a small amount of water pressure.
“We charged them with first degree theft and prosecuted those cases. I anticipate doing that more often in the future,” Salisbury said.”We’re not just sending them letters, but also following up with criminal prosecution.”
The solicitor reported that one of the city employees who shuts the water off has been following up and checking the meters that have been tampered with. Additionally, city officers have also been working to document those cases where the delinquent water/sewer customers have been stealing water from the city.
According to the city auditor, the current delinquent water/sewer bills will be certified to the county auditor during the first week of September. Individuals who wish to pay their bills prior to that date can still do so at the city offices at 848 Third Avenue. Following that cut off date, the delinquent customers will have to pay off their overdue accounts at the county auditor’s office in the Gallia County Courthouse.