CLINTON — Several issues related to sewer payments were considered by the Clinton City Council’s Internal Operations Committee last week.
The committee had requested a hardship program to help low-income residents get a break on their sewer bills. But Finance Director and Interim City Administrator Jessica Kinser recommended the city not pursue that type of policy, due to the council’s rejection of a proposed rate hike last week. She said it would be several years before there was a positive cash balance in the fund, and personnel reductions would make it difficult to carry out a hardship program.
"You can’t give away money you don’t have,” Kinser said.
She also said the message from the council in rejecting the rate increase was to cut expenses. She is studying staffing as a way to cut costs and will bring a plan to the council at its next meeting. Kinser said with staff reductions, it would be difficult to implement any new activity in a way that would be beneficial to customers.
The committee agreed and said the policy could be reviewed periodically to determine if it could be implemented at a future point.
The committee also considered combining current policies for summer watering and landscape use. The proposal did not make major changes except to put the two policies into a single policy. It would require a person to have a supplemental water meter directed to outdoor watering. The person must report the readings to the city to receive credit.
Credits would not be provided for filling swimming pools.
A third issue dealt with bills involving apartments in 2005 and 2006 that did not get paid by the tenants and where the landlords were not aware of the bills. The city had billing issues during that two-year period.
In 2010, the council approved a blanket forgiveness for those landlords who got stuck with a bill from that period if they applied by end of September 2010. But a couple of landlords approached the committee, saying they had just received a late notice from that 2005 and 2006 period.
Kinser said updating the software found some of those past due bills. She suggested amending the resolution to remove the date and make it an administrative procedure. This would not change the forgiveness already approved by the council and it would only apply to landlords.
Council member Jennifer Graf, a member of the IOC, could agree to the change and wanted information from Kinser on the amount that that would be past due from landlords from the time period. She said it would help to point out that amount is actually small and is not a significant part of the $2 million in past due sewer bills.
The committee forwarded the amendment proposal to the next committee-of-the-whole session.