Medora officials set fines: Unpaid water, sewer bills to accrue fees



Medora officials say they can’t keep letting some residents get by with not paying their water and sewer bills.

They hope the establishment of an ordinance will remedy that problem.

When the town finds a resident has failed to pay water and/or sewer fees when they are due and has been notified of nonpayment, a fine not to exceed $5 will be issued for every month it remains unpaid. For monthly or other longer-term average discharge limits, fines will be assessed for each day during the period of violation.

Unpaid charges, fines and penalties not paid after 60 calendar days will be assessed an additional penalty of 10 percent of the unpaid balance, and interest will accrue thereafter at a rate of 0.5 percent per month. A lien against the user’s property also will be sought for unpaid charges, fines and penalties.

If the user is a tenant who leaves unpaid water and/or sewer fees, the lien will be attached to the landlord’s property until paid in full.

Users, or landlords if the user is a tenant, will be responsible for all attorney fees and litigation costs resulting from the town’s efforts to collect the payments due.

The town council recently approved the first reading of the ordinance written by attorney Matt Lorenzo and will consider the final reading at its next meeting, set for 6 p.m. Aug. 14 at the town hall.

“Our goal with this ordinance is to make sure that the people that pay their bills on time all of the time are rewarded by not having us to have to raise the rates because of people that are not paying,” council President Bob Thompson said.

Bills are due on the 15th of each month, and there is a 10-day grace period.

Still, Thompson said some people don’t get it paid until the next month.

“That’s the people that we’re actually going after because it’s not a matter that we want these properties, but there’s no reason why we shouldn’t go after our money,” he said. “The town has been losing probably $8,000 to $10,000 a year on past-due water bills. The town is tired of losing $8,000 to $10,000. For this town, that is a lot of money because if we have one problem with a pump, we’re talking $10,000 to $14,000.”

Thompson said there is a $150 deposit to have water turned on in a home in town. That’s the responsibility of the property owners.

He said some landlords don’t make the tenants responsible for paying their bills.

“People move in, they’ll stay three months and they’re gone and never pay anything,” he said. “These property owners are really, in my opinion, messing up because they would pay the $150 water deposit, and they could move in and out who they want to, but they need to collect the water bill from them and then pay the water bill here instead of making the (tenants) responsible for that.”

The new ordinance will require the property owners to make sure the bills are paid before the water will be turned on.

“Once this is approved, I don’t care whose property it is, if they are wanting to put a tenant in there and there’s a past-due bill on it, they will pay that bill, bring it up-to-date or their water will not be turned on, and we will file a lien against them,” Thompson said.

When Thompson began his term on the council about six years ago, he said nearly 40 people were always late paying their bills. Now, it’s down to around 15, but it’s still money the town is losing.

“We had to do something, and we did something,” Thompson said of establishing the ordinance. “It’s mainly because of all of the years that the water bills have been thrown right out the window. We’re just tired of it. I have to pay my water bill.”

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