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How best to address the issue of delinquent water bills, especially those from rental properties, continues to vex the Mount Ayr city council.
At their regular meeting Monday, May 6, the council again met with Mark and Lynda Triggs to further discuss a lien of $886.17 placed on one of their rental properties due to renters skipping out on their water bills.
The Triggs first voiced their complaints at the April 15 council meeting at which mayor Steve Fetty said he would review utility records and city ordinances before the city could act on the complaints.
At Monday’s meeting, Fetty said one main problem lies with the timing of billing for water usage. The meters are read on the 12th day of each month, and bills are sent out the first day of the following month. Bills are not considered delinquent until the 20th day of the month in which bills are sent.
As a result, he said, the city would be unaware a bill is delinquent until the meter has already been read for the next billing cycle. Once the bill becomes delinquent, the city must observe a seven-day wait period before water service could be shut off.
During that time, however, the second billing cycle is already in the books and the account would be three weeks into a third billing cycle before the water service could be discontinued.
In the case of a rental property, the responsibility for the delinquent bills falls upon the landlord unless the landlord has signed a lien exemption document with the city.
Landlords have 30 days from time a tenant moves in to complete the exemption documentation.
With the payment of a deposit, the exemption document frees landlords from liens resulting from delinquent water bills. The deposit goes toward the delinquent amount after which the city then becomes responsible for pursuing the delinquent patron for the difference.
The Triggs had not signed such a lien exemption, so the liens were placed on their properties.
Lynda Triggs said she had no way of knowing if renters had paid their water bills and was upset when she learned the city signed payment agreements with patrons who were behind on their water bills.
She argued those agreements only extend the time those patrons can build up delinquent balances which ultimately fall back on landlords if the patron leaves town without notice.
She demanded to see copies of all such agreements the city has issued.
The meeting became contentious at times in the discussion related to dates the Triggs had notified the city to shut off water service to specific properties and the dates the water service had actually been shutoff.
The Triggs implied they would likely involve an attorney to address the lien situation.
At the conclusion of the 45-minute discussion, the council took no formal action in regards to amending the liens.
Later in the meeting, however, the council voted to schedule a special work session to address issues dealing with water service, water meters and water rates.
In other business the council:
• approved the hiring of Scott Myer as a temporary part-time employee devoted only to summer mowing at a wage of $13 per hour.
• learned the water booster station is 100 percent operational and meeting all mandated state standards.
• set a public hearing for May 20 at 7 p.m. on an amendment to the current city budget.