Once again the city of Warsaw found itself with undocumented apartments and more unbilled properties.
Clerical errors from as far back as 15 years have so far resulted in the city forfeiting approximately $16,000 in sewer fees.
Problems began surfacing in June when Mary Lou Plummer, manager of the wastewater payment office, began updating records of all city properties. “It’s been an overriding theme,” said Mayor Joe Thallemer, “but those records are being updated now so hopefully we’ll clear these problems up.”
At today’s meeting of the Warsaw Board of Public Works and Safety, an apartment building at 504 E. Fort Wayne St., owned by Hugo and Sarah Pedrozo, was found to be delinquent $4,590.80 in sewer fees. The problem, according to utility manager Brian Davison, began before the Pendrozos purchased the building six years ago. “They purchased it as a four unit but it’s always been billed as a two-unit apartment. The county sees it as a three-unit,” Davison said.
The Pedrozos, however, have always paid their sewer bills on time and even agreed to pay the entire delinquent amount from the time they purchased the apartment building, but asked to do so in installments over a 5 year period. While the B.O.W. could have opted to pursue the $4,590.80, members Thallemer, Charlie Smith and Jeff Grose felt the problem was not the fault of the Pedrozos.
Grose asked city planner Jeremy Skinner how those slip-ups keep happening, to which clerical errors were noted, but also Skinner said some of it can be attributed to property owners who fail to get proper permits when converting houses into apartments.
“The problem is we don’t have meters and separate taps,” said Thallemer. “Some of these things are 15 years old. I’m inclined to go at this point forward and waive the fees because they (have a history of paying) on time.”
Grose added, “Connected to that, you like to give benefit of the doubt, and this isn’t the first time. There are questions on our end and in our effort to do the right thing … I’m leaning with Joe.”
Smith made the motion to waive the unpaid amount and the vote passed unanimously.
At the B.O.W.’s July meeting, Robert and Janet Shull had $9,163.20 in delinquent sewage fees waived because the city made na error in identifying a rental property with more than one unit.
In August, Charles Allen, owns property at 753 E. Market St., was also given a pass on $2,290.80 in unbilled sewage fees. Allen built an upstairs apartment to the property, which had a small fire over the summer and resulted in the city discovering the additional unit. Once again, however, clerical errors were blamed and Allen was not made to pay the fees.
In other business, the B.O.W. accepted grants on behalf of the Warsaw Police Department and the Ride+Walk Advisory Committee.
The WPD received the annual Victims of Crime Act grant totaling $44,755. The VOCA grant is federal funds which can be used for the department to maintain its Victims Assistance program. The grant requires the city to pay an $8,951 match, which WPD Chief Scott Whitaker said is in the 2013 budget.
The Ride+Walk committee was also awarded a $20,000 grant from the Kosciusko County Convention, Recreation and Visitor Commission for the Krebs Trailhead Park project. Staci Young, committee chair, said the KCCRVC wants the project to focus on the county as a whole. “The idea is to start at the trailhead, get information and branch out from there,” she said.
Dave Taylor of the KCCRVC attended today’s meeting and told the B.O.W. of the grant offering, “The commission is working toward spending out tourist dollars a little more judiciously … local citzens here 365 days a year, so we feel we’re getting more bang for the buck (by) investing in local infrastructure and we want to continue in that manner.”
Thallemer responded, “It’s a very visible project that we really want to promote. Warsaw truly is going to be the hub of the county trail system.”
The B.O.W. also approved the hiring of three new police officers. They are Justin Curtis, Jason Dobbins and Jordan Roberts.
The next meeting of the B.O.W. will be at 10:30 a.m. Friday, Oct. 19. Meetings are open to the public and are held in the city council chambers.