DUBOIS – Talk and debate over increasing the fee to reconnect water meters from $25 to $100 carried over from the Thursday work session into Monday night’s DuBois City Council meeting.
Henry Guthrie, a candidate for City Council, approached the council with the belief that this action would adversely affect those who had their meters shut off from overdue bills.
“While a hike in the service reconnection fee would be a relevant concern for only a small number of residents, I believe that for those who have had service due to delinquent bills, any fee over and above the real costs involved to reconnect service is a punitive one, and further penalize those in financial difficulty would be an unfortunate way to move forward,” said Guthrie.
This lead to City Council explaining the reasons for the fee increase for reconnecting meters.
“What seems to be happening is people are trying to get around the system,” said City of DuBois Mayor John “Herm” Suplizio.
The current reconnection fee was set back in the 1980s. Two decades of inflation and rising costs of service has changed $25 from being a payment worth considering to a drop in a bucket to what someone would pay compared to leaving the water on while taking months-long vacations elsewhere. In essence, some citizens of the city have been voluntarily asking to have their meters remove and later reconnected.
The only current fee to the homeowner for having a city worker leave their current task to make a home visit is the $25 at the reconnection only.
With city workers involved there is also a chance of liability in handling the meters. If City of DuBois employees damage anything in the removal and reconnection of a meter it is the city who is responsible. Another factor mentioned was paying the city worker for this extra work.
“The cost of health care hasn’t doubled, it hasn’t tripled, it has increased ten times,” explained City of DuBois Solicitor Toni Cherry talking about only one aspect of employee compensation.
The city did not want the fee to overly punitive themselves. The original fee was closer to $150.
The City of DuBois also tries to help those who are behind on their bills, and often works with such people, explained Suplizio. He stated it is rare for the meters to be shut off for being only one month behind.
Also, the city reserves the right to waive the fee if they think it is justified at any point. They just can’t arbitrarily add a fee without an ordinance. So for legal reasons the city needs the desired fee stated clearly with the option to waive it.