On Jan. 4, the first 2016 meeting of Mount Gilead Village Council opened with Judge Howard Hall presiding over the oath of office for Mayor, Mike Porter and Council Members Donna Carver, Christopher Sherbourne and Keith Strait. The fourth new council member, John Oyster was out of town and will take the oath of office at the next meeting.
Tim Clapper was elected President, Pro Tem by unanimous vote and the same council meeting schedule of the first and third Monday of the month was approved.
Mount Gilead Council Members then listened to a well-organized presentation by village resident, Morgan Salisbury. Salisbury’s presentation was about how water utility bills are processed and billed.
Salisbury’s concerns came up after she returned home to her apartment to find a Water Department Disconnect notice on her door. There was a charge of $25 in addition to her water bill and the usual 10% late fee. Since she pays most of her bills on line she was concerned that she had no prior notice and no time to respond before a disconnect notice with a fee of $25 was attached to her door.
Another surprise for Salisbury is that these late notices go out to rental units before they go out to private residences and landlords. She noted that it is as though the landlords are dictating how the bill paying system works. She found that her neighbors in a nearby apartment had several of the late notices added to their bill before they realized what was happening.
Her concern is not only that the $25 Disconnection fee is excessive, but there is very little notice or information for customers on how to pay, where to pay and what late fees include.
Salisbury came with a packet for council members that included the water utility ordinances for Mount Gilead, Cardington and Del-Co Water Co. She included a copy of her late notice and both her water bill and her neighbor’s that show how quickly the fees add up.
Salisbury closed her report with a list of recommendations for the village that include: removing the Disconnect Notice Fee of $25 and replacing it with an ordinance to have a late notice mailed with strict guidelines; have separate notices for landlords and tenants; give customers the opportunity to have payment arrangements once an account becomes delinquent; give customers a list of rules and regulations that all customers read and sign, invest in an on line bill pay system; list all water utility information online and on after-hours voicemail as well as in a visible after-hours area and list the actual amount of water consumption on water bills.
Council members listened to her presentation attentively. Utilities Chairman Tim Clapper responded that there has been some study of these concerns in the past year. He added that she had several good ideas, but the idea of a separate notice for tenants and landlords might be difficult to implement. Clapper pledged to have the utility committee do further study and asked Salisbury if she would be interested in meeting with the committee. She responded that she would and they will be in contact with her.
At the close of the meeting Salisbury was pleased with the response and interest of the council and looks forward to having some input with Clapper and the committee on the water utility.
In other council business, Fire Chief Greg Young reported 292 runs for the year 2015. 12 responses for the prior two weeks include three mutual aid, one MVC response, three EMS assists, one barn fire, one electrical issue, two wires down responses and one Carbon Monoxide check.
Village Administrator, Dan Rogers reported that cold patching of pot holes around town is taking place and asked council to contact him if they see holes that need to be filled. Along with routine maintenance of the water and sewer plants, he has received two bids for the Sanitary Sewer Rehabilitation Project Phase 1. Bids were forwarded to Poggemeyer for review. Ours excavating was the low bidder.
The CDB Grant that Rogers submitted to the county has been approved and that means the restroom at the playground on Cherry St. will be built as soon as the environmental review is completed. He hopes in the spring (2016).
Alberta Stojkovic is a correspondent with the Morrow County Sentinel and can be reached at [email protected]