Chatham squeezes water bill late-pays, users pay up

CHATHAM–The Chatham Village Board has set a date for a public hearing for the proposed changes to the village’s zoning code. The public hearing will be held Tuesday, September 3 at 6 p.m.

Mayor John Howe said at a meeting last week that the board would have to hold a second public hearing later in the month before voting on the changes in the zoning code. The changes include new and updated definitions, changes to the use table, changes in applying for a special use permit and an updated zoning map.

The proposed changes and updates to the zoning code will be on the village website, villageofchatham.com, according to the mayor.

At the August 12 meeting, the board also discussed having a public hearing on amending a local law to keep the billing dates for the water and sewer as they are now. Mayor Howe said that the dates the village currently sends out bills quarterly are not on the dates written in the village code so the board needs to make that change to the code, but they must have a public hearing before voting.

As for water and sewer bills, Mayor Howe said the village has seen a huge decrease in bills later than 60 days this billing cycle. He said that during an earlier billing cycle, the bills still unpaid after 60 days totaled as much as $30,000, but in the current billing, which went out in May, the late payments amount to only $173. He attributed that to a policy on late payments from 2017 that the board rescinded in July. Mr. Howe and Village Clerk Debra Meyers said that the old resolution had extended the time people could pay. Rescinding the 2017 resolution means the village has gone back to the local law that says payment must be made within 60 days or water service will be shut off. There is also a one-time 10% penalty on bills paid after 30 days.

According to the minutes from October 2017, the resolution creating the former policy reads, “To approve the new policy for late payment of water/sewer bills as follows: a) Late Notice will be mailed two weeks after due date if payment has not been received. b) Additional five percent penalty fee will be applied three weeks after due date if payment has not been received. c) Shut off Letter will be mailed four weeks after due date if payment has not been received. d) Shut off Notice will be posted six weeks after due date if payment has not been received and as allowed by law. Service will be shut off 24-48 hours after this posting.”

The board rescinded the policy at a July 8 meeting.

Mayor Howe said that the village had sent out shut-off letters during this billing cycle. “I went to some houses,” he said of properties with late payments. As of the meeting, there was one village property with water shut-off due to an unpaid bill.

The board also forgave penalties on late fees for six residents’ water and sewer bills, ranging from $9 to $28 because the residents said they did not receive the bills in the mail. Village Clerk Meyers said that all of these residents pay their bills on time normally. Mayor Howe said they have talked to the post office about the matter.

Also on the subject of water in the village, the new water tower at the reservoir is online. According the Department of Public Works report presented at the meeting, “there are still some quirks that need to be worked out, like high and low limits and bugs with the new alarm system.” The report also said the department can now drain the village reservoir and take it offline. “The reservoir was built in 1888, it had served the village as a holding vessel for 131 years,” the report says.

Also at the meeting:

• Work on the curbs along Washington Avenue was scheduled for August 22. At the meeting the board accepted a bid from A. Colarusso & Son, Inc to do the paving on the street

• The board discussed the new electric sign at the firehouse. A resident asked how the sign got approved. Mayor Howe said there were notes and communications between the Village Board and the village Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals, but that this had happened before he and most board members were elected. He said that the fire company did not need approval for the sign since it is on village property but he also said the fire company “got a permit” for the sign.

Trustee Lenore Packet said that she remembers the sign issue coming to the Village Board for review in the past but that board members never saw photos or plans. “Everyone was a little dumbstruck,” she said of the sign. She said she has received several phone calls about it.

Resident Lael Locke, who was a member of the village zoning committee, said of the sign, “It is very unfortunate because it is not allowed in the village.”

Mayor Howe said, “We can’t do anything about it now, it’s exempt.”

Trustee Jaimee Boehme defended the sign saying, “There are a lot of people who like it”

• During the Fire Department report, Chief Paul Rideout said the department is requesting the board “make a formal inquiry into the status of the bridge crossing the creek at Sundog Solar.” Mayor Howe said that he had talked to the owner of Sundog and the representatives at the company, which is just outside the village on Route 295, about finding out the weight limit on the bridge so that village fire trucks, which contract with the Town of Chatham for fire protection services, could get across the privately owned bridge. Mayor Howe said he is in contact with the town about the issue.

The next board meeting will be Monday, September 9 at 7 p.m.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email eteasdale@columbiapaper.com

Comments are closed.