Chatham gets tough on water deadbeats… but

CHATHAM–The Village Board learned last week that only three property owners have not paid their water and sewer bills, with the delinquent bills ranging in value from $423.90 to $1,398.77. But while the village knows who owes it money, what it must do to collect the funds gets complicated.

The subject of the delinquent bills was introduced at the August 10 meeting by village Treasurer Barbara Henry, who said that the water and sewer system is currently running a deficit of $43,000. The village water system serves the village plus homes and businesses along state Route 66 in the Town of Ghent outside the boundaries of village water district.

One of the three properties with unpaid bills is in that out-of district part Ghent, and village officials plan to issue a final warning to the owner and then shut off service if the customer doesn’t pay.

For the two delinquent properties in the water district the village can “re-levy” the water and sewer fees and then set a date for shutting off service. But this may have to happen soon, because village Department of Public Works chief Phil Genovese told the board that the law does not allow municipalities to shut off water service during the winter months.

Another factor is that one of the two properties in the district may have tenants and the village cannot shut off water to tenants whose landlord has not paid the bill for water service. And to complicate matters further, village officials are not sure whether anyone lives in one of the buildings. That’s true even for Ms. Henry, who said she lives nearby one of the houses. The police, who were asked to determine whether the house was occupied, couldn’t tell for sure either.

And then there’s the question of how a reported foreclosure proceeding involving one of the properties might affect the town’s ability to collect payment for water and sewer service.

Mayor Tom Curran said that it was important to resolve these outstanding debts because all other water users had paid their water bills and it was only fair that everybody helps pay for the service. That raised the question of how much of the bill the delinquent owners would have to pay just to prevent a water shutoff before December 1, when Mr. Genovese said the no-shutoff period begins.

Board member Mike Wollowitz initially suggested that the two village homeowners pay half of the delinquent bill plus the fee for the current quarter in October. After hearing more about the situation he amended his suggestion to 1/3 of the delinquent bill plus current charges.

After further discussion the board authorized village Clerk Debra Meyers to draft three alternative notifications and payment offers for the board to consider at its next meeting.
In other business at the August 10 meeting:

• The board approved closing Main Street to motor vehicles from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. October 7 for the OctoberFeast event. The town will charge the Chatham Area Business and Arts (CABA) Events Committee, which organizes OctoberFeast, $1,000 for the cost of police overtime and the services of the DPW for the event, plus a $75 fee to close the municipal parking lot near the village hall. Closing that lot also requires approval by the Town Board, because the town and village share ownership of the lot.

Also approved was a resolution to suspend the open alcoholic beverage container law between 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. during the OctoberFeast street party, but drinking will be restricted to a large tent in the municipal parking lot after 4:30 p.m.

• To make way for the annual Columbia County Fair parade, there will be no parking Saturday, September 2 from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Kinderhook Street and on Woodbridge Avenue from Hoffman Street to Kinderhook Street

• At the suggestion of the Fire Department the board agreed to donate the old fire police emergency van to one of two neighboring fire companies that have expressed an interest in having it. The Chatham Fire Department now has a newer vehicle and the now-decommissioned van was originally obtained as a donation

• Mayor Curran, who also serves as village police commissioner, reported that over the last 11 months the Police Department’s Chatham Cares 4U program has helped 136 people suffering from addiction find treatment beds and has transported them to treatment facilities. The program has received “numerous donations,” the mayor said, adding that many of the donations came from the “faith community.” But the Chatham program is no longer receiving funds from the county through the Columbia Pathways to Recovery program, he said.

The next meeting of the Village Board will be Thursday, August 24 at 7 p.m. at the Tracy Memorial Village Hall.

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