The town of Durbin is currently operating at an $8,100 deficit due to the number of residents with past due bills. At the monthly town council meeting May 6, councilmembers, mayor Donald Peck and recorder Danielle Findley discussed the issue and how to remedy the situation.
In the past, treasurer Veronica Lane sent letters to those owing past due bills, which resulted in several residents paying their debt.
While the letters helped, Peck had a suggestion for council to consider.
“What I’d like to see is whoever is behind to pay twenty-five dollars on their past due bill and their current bill,” he said. “If she [Lane] gets that in a letter and sends it to them as a deferred payment plan, maybe we can get these caught up.”
While council agreed the payment plan is a good idea, a couple of individuals showed concern for those with a fixed income.
“My neighbor who is elderly who is really struggling financially, the town gives her a pass because of her situation,” Findley said. “I just lost my job a month ago and I’ve got two teenagers. I’ve got my own circumstances and I want my pass, too. You see what I’m saying? That spreads like wildfire. We have to treat everybody the same, regardless.”
Later in the conversation, Findley reconsidered and asked if the payment plan could have a hardship exemption.
“We need a minimum, but we also need to allow for some sort of special circumstance,” she said. “We can’t just bulldoze, hard nose, ‘you’ve got to give us twenty-five dollars every month on your past due [bill] plus your current thirty dollars and your ten percent late fee.’ We need to work on the letter and we do need a minimum, but we need some hardship exemption, only because that amount of money it going to get large.”
Resident Buster Varner said that unpaid bills have been an issue for a long time in Durbin and that people don’t pay their bills because there isn’t a penalty.
“The town has lost thousands of dollars for not enforcing what they need to,” he said. “I’ve lived in this town all my life and this has been an ongoing issue. Somebody’s got to take a stand and do something about it. I think it’s not fair to the rest of us who does pay our bill to let these people go.”
Addressing the penalty issue, Peck explained that with the deferral plan, if residents owing past due bills do not keep up with the plan, their water will be turned off.
“If we asked the PSD to disconnect because of an unpaid sewer bill, there’s twenty-five dollars,” Findley added. “Let’s just say you pay your water bill every month but you’re not paying your town bill, then after three or four months, after the due process is done, then we will tell Ricky [Barkley] to turn your water off. We’re going to charge twenty-five dollars to disconnect it and twenty-five dollars to reconnect it, and a twenty-five dollar administration fee in addition to that. That’s in addition to requiring that your town bill be paid in full before we would turn the water back on.”
Council did not take any action on the situation but did ask Peck to work with Lane on a new letter for residents who owe past due bills. The letter will include that the resident must sign a payment plan for the past due bills or else their water will be turned off by the PSD.
In other news:
• Buster Varner presented council with information on a dump truck he found online. The truck which is located in Indiana, will cost the town $7,600.
Council thanked Varner for his assistance with finding a truck and said it will vote on purchasing the truck at the next meeting.
• Council approved to hire Jonah Bauserman to make electrical renovations to the town office.
• Resident and former councilmember Thelma Smith told council she filed a Freedom of Information Act [FOIA] request in February for copies of the minutes and financial statements for the December and November 2013, and January and February 2014 meetings. She said she has not received the information yet.
Findley said she would fulfill the request for her after the meeting.
Durbin Town Council meets the second Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. in the town office.
Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org