Last Sunday morning’s worship service recognized the beginning of the Advent season. A time of preparation for celebrating the birth of Christ as we anticipate His return.
December 3 was the first of the four Sabbath days before Christmas Day. The focus of the first Advent Sunday was Hope.
When asked why the Town charges for sewer services when a house is empty, I “hope” the following provides an understanding of why.
At one point in time, the Town knew of numerous cases of residents living in homes with all utilities turned off, using rainwater and river water to flush commodes.
In other cases, squatters were living in abandoned and dilapidated structures. These trespassing vagrants were using facilities and causing sewer issues that affected surrounding neighbors in their respective areas of Town. When the owners of those structures refused to do anything, it was left to the Town to do something.
In one particular area, three of nine residences were utility-paying customers. To keep those paying customers in sewer service, weekly visits were made by the maintenance crew to these same locations. The same issues were found each time. The Town crew would find pant legs, tee shirts, rags, and other items in backed up sewer lines, where these items were being used as toilet paper. How is that for TMI?
On one occasion, an extension cord was found under a piece of carpet across the street. Power was being stolen from the residence of a recently deceased owner. The electrical cords ran to the river, where an electric sump-pump was returning river water to a separate abandoned structure where two couples were living illegally.
These abandoned houses were a nuisance and expense in more ways than one. So, when seeking solutions to the problem, we found a provision in the Public Service Commission regulation that allowed for sewer charges per structure, whether occupied or not. The PSC regulation §8-18-22. Connection to sewers reads in part: Regardless of whether the owner or owners connect to such sewer, the municipality may bill the owner or owners of the lot or parcel and the owner or owners shall pay the municipality’s charge based on the actual water consumption on the lot or parcel. If the lot or parcel is not metered, the municipality’s charge shall be based on the municipality’s good faith estimate of the consumption. Hence, the minimum charge is applied to these situations. At that time, it was the only available way to recover sewer expenses to a system that still has more expense than revenue.
So, the decision was ultimately made based upon one basic fact. The Town cannot turn sewer service on or off, like we can water service. As usual, almost every decision creates unintended circumstances. But the decision to charge property owners the minimum bill of $21.64 per month for sewer services did provide incentive for property owners to either rent, sell or tear down some of these structures. In the long run, I “hope” each of the property owners is better off having chosen one or the other.
In closing, thanks to all who worked on the Christmas Parade and the Light-up-Marlinton-Christmas-Lights-Contest. It has created a flurry of renewed interest, participation and activity.
Thanks, Shawn Dunbrack, for creating the portal for online voting. As of Monday morning, the online voting had made possible 579 online votes. Other positive comments came into the office, that was totally unexpected. Residents were already making suggestions how the contest could be made better next year.