CAMDEN — Village Council discussed utility fee policies and unpaid citations during its first bi-monthly meeting on Friday, Nov. 5.
Clerk of Courts Nancy Melton once again addressed council about efforts to collect payment for unpaid traffic and Mayor’s Court citations. Melton previously suggested turning over delinquent accounts to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office Department of Collections during one of council’s Aug. 2019 meetings.
“They go after everything, and from what I hear it’s not too nice, and it does put some fear in people,” Melton said at that time.
Melton reported during last Thursday’s meeting that letters warning residents of imminent registration blocks and forfeitures due to unpaid citations had resulted in nine of the accounts being brought up to date.
“So, the letters are helping,” Melton said.
She reported little progress on the plan to turn over accounts to the Ohio A.G.’s office, however, citing the ubiquitous effects of COVID-19.
“Everybody’s working from home, so it’s a slow process,” Melton said. “Whenever I ask a question, it takes five to 10 days to get an answer.”
Council member Debbie Hickman raised concerns about expensive late fees and reconnection charges being assessed against residents who are late paying their water bill.
“Let’s say the average water bill is $100,” Hickman said. “Isn’t a 10 percent late fee too high? On electric and other bills it’s only a couple bucks, I think.”
Residents are also charged a $50 reconnection fee if their bill isn’t paid until after shut-off, according to Hickman.
“That’s pretty steep for someone who’s already having a hard time paying their bill,” Hickman said.
Hickman suggested a tiered system that would charge first-time offenders only $10-15 to reconnect, with second and third offenses entailing progressively larger fees.
Councilman Kelly Doran seemed open to Hickman’s proposal.
“What I like is that you earn your penalty,” Doran said. “It’s your fault. You had your $10 option. You earned that, we didn’t just sock you with it.”
Village Administrator Rusty Wilson and Fiscal Officer Becky Wilson disagreed, saying that village employees spend hours shutting off water service to delinquent accounts, only to have to immediately reconnect after residents pay their bill the same day.
“They burn up a whole day going around turning people’s water off and then turning it back on,” Hickman said. “Can’t we be nicer? I want to be a friendly town.”
Wilson insisted that she tries to be reasonable with residents who are struggling.
“It’s not that we don’t work with these people,” she said.
“I understand that,” Hickman replied. “But there’s a lot of people out of work right now. I feel for them. How does it look when we’ve got churches calling in here to pay for people because they’re in desperate situations?”
“I can answer that. Some of them are just taking advantage of the churches,” Wilson said.
Hickman suggested giving residents a “clean slate” in January, and possibly starting the tired fee structure at that time.
Village Council meets the first and third Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. at Camden Town Hall.
Reach Anthony Baker at 937-683-4057 or on Facebook @mproperenglish