No water for Manchester sewer bill scofflaws?
City aldermen have given preliminary approval to combining the billing systems for the pipes that deliver water to residences and take wastewater away, a move officials hope will boost collection on sewer accounts.
Whereas Water Works could turn off the spigot for people behind on water bills, the city’s only recourse for nonpayment of sewer charges was the protracted process of filing a lien on the residence.
For the past several months, the city’s Information Systems Department has been working with the Manchester Water Works and the city’s Environmental Protection Division, which currently administers sewer accounts, on merging the billing systems.
Phil Croasdale, Water Works’ financial officer, explained that combining the bills was a way of working around a state statute that allows cutting off water only for nonpayment of water bills. He noted that Portsmouth has adopted a similar system.
“We’re going to be very sensitive as we move forward,” he said. “Like in the past, we’ll work with all our customers to reach a fair and equitable payment plan.”
“There are situations where people are paying rent on time, but someone’s not paying sewer,” Ludwig said. “I’m just wondering if there are any mechanisms for an appeals process before water is actually shut off?
Ludwig said he supported the change, while adding, “We’re going to leave the fairness up to you.”
The committee voted to support the combined billing as part of a larger updating of the city’s sewer ordinances. The ordinances are expected to be voted on by the full board of aldermen at their next meeting on Aug. 5. They will then undergo further review by two more committees.