Monthly utility bills on the way

Tyler
Tyler Clarke
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Supportive of the city going from quarterly to monthly utility billing, Mayor Greg Dionne wasn’t one to point out during Monday’s city council meeting that the city is still on course for monthly billing, effective Jan. 1. 

The devil’s in the details, and city council missed a detail in Monday’s city council meeting, Mayor Greg Dionne said after the meeting wrapped up.

 

During a lengthy debate about changes to the city’s water and sewer bylaws, the city’s elected officials failed to revoke or even debate a previous motion of council for the city to begin issuing monthly utility bills.

“It’s coming,” Dionne said of bumping utility bills from quarterly to monthly.

“Council hasn’t rescinded the motion. I’ll be bringing it up Jan. 1 -- Where’s our monthly billing? I have a motion of council.”

Monday’s meeting was the last scheduled city council meeting until Jan. 13, and the approved motion of council has monthly utility bills begin Jan. 1.

Recent city council and executive committee meetings have seen the city’s elected officials waver on whether to follow through on issuing monthly utility bills, as per a motion that passed earlier this year.

The annual cost of going to monthly bills has been estimated at about $277,000 -- a figure that factors in added cost of stationary and an annual late penalty revenue loss of about $150,000.

While council looked over proposed utility bill bylaw changes during Monday’s meeting, the bulk of conversation settled on whether to increase the cost of tagging doors from $10 to $20.

Doors are tagged as a final warning to homeowners that their water is at risk of being shut off due to the property owner’s failure to pay a utility bill, city finance director Joe Day explained.

“It seems that we’re raising fees all the time,” Coun. Don Cody said.

“I know that the cost of doing business is there, but you know, you raise the water, you’ve increased this you’ve increased that…”

It’s coming. Council hasn’t rescinded the motion. I’ll be bringing it up Jan. 1 -- Where’s our monthly billing? I have a motion of council. Greg Dionne

Those who are unable to pay are likely the ones having their doors tagged, he said.

“We are trying to get money, here, from the poorest of the poorest.”

Day clarified that tagging is their second-to-last ditch effort.

“When necessary, we make payment arrangements, which give people the opportunity to catch up … before we shut the water off,” he said.

Expressing his support of going to monthly payments, Dionne said, “I could see the poor having a heart attack when they see their three-month bill at $385 and trying to figure out how I’m going to pay for that.”

Coun. Charlene Miller countered by asking whether Dionne is interested in re-thinking the 9.2 per cent utility bill increase in 2014, which council tentatively approved earlier this year as part of a multi-year increase plan.

Dionne replied that he’s open to looking at anything, “as long as it’s fair and equal to the majority of our population.”

In the end, the city’s elected officials agreed on a compromise, with the cost of tagging doors bumped up to $15.

In addition to monthly utility billing in the new year, the city is looking at initiating a pre-authorized payment plan for utility bill payments -- a program Dionne said after the meeting is “a work in progress.”

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