NORTH WEBSTER — Lakeland Regional Sewer District discussed new ways to handle delinquent customers during the board’s regular monthly meeting Thursday evening, Feb. 4, in the North Webster Community Center.
Since the billing process began, LRSD has been dealing with late fees, confused users and plenty of unpaid bills. Now, with approximately 100 customers past due by 120 days on their incoming sewer bills, the district needs to take action. Jennifer Ransbottom of Jones Petrie Rafinski Corporation, the firm in charge of running the district’s billing, said they have taken all necessary and appropriate measures to ensure those bills have been received by the correct person.
Board member Bob Sanders asked of Ransbottom whether she felt there are issues with customers receiving their bills, or whether it is an outright refusal to pay. Ransbottom explained since none of the remaining bills have been retuned to sender, and addresses have been cross-checked with government websites, she has to assume the customers are refusing to pay. Sanders offered his assistance in double-checking addresses and homeowners, noting the county’s GIS address system can sometimes be slow to update.
The board then had to decide whether to send all three late notices plus the pre-lien notice for the delinquent customers, or if sending one notice would be enough. Ultimately, the board went with President Jim Haney’s suggestion of sending property owners the 120-day past due notice, followed by the pre-lien notice. If payment still does not come after a period of 20 days, Ransbottom will begin a lien process. The cost of preparing and sending these letters will be directly passed on to the delinquent customer. Currently, the cost per notice letter will be $1 plus the cost of postage. Certified mail is at a cost of $2.50.
Board member Parke Smith updated the board and the public on the progress of the website redesign. After the board approved a budget for the site, and signed off on the most recent $1,522.50 expense for the updates, Smith was happy to note the site is close to being ready. He is working with several other board members to get photos added to the site, and is waiting on additional scenes from the construction sites from engineer Casey Erwin, DLZ.
The board opened the meeting to public questions, most of which revolved around newly purchased land and the inability to hook up to the project because of missing deadlines. It is a situation that has been brought to the board several times, but at least three public members stood up to ask for help Thursday evening. One woman had purchased land through land contract and was preparing to pay it off when she found out the incarcerated property owner she was contracted under had not signed over an easement for the project, nor passed on the info.
Another young woman cited the same issue. For each complaint, the board listened and attempted to provide individual answers after the meeting. The board did suggest, however, any property owner looking to join the project look into the USDA’s 504 grant program first.