Birch Bay Water and Sewer District talks lock-off policy

Published on Fri, Jul 15, 2011 by Jeremy Schwartz

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Consider this the first in a what will hopefully be a series of posts following the various governmental meetings I attend as part of my job as a reporter. These posts will describe some of what was discussed at these meetings and may or may not be expanded into a full story. As a reporter, I consider myself the eyes and ears of roughly 10,000 people (The estimated readership of The Northern Light), and these posts will be part of connecting these people with their local governments.

My inaugural post in this series centers on the semimonthly Birch Bay Water and Sewer district board of commissioners meetings, which are held the second and fourth Thursdays of the month at 4:30 p.m. at the water and sewer district offices, 7096 Point Whitehorn Road, in Birch Bay. A big chunk of the board's July 14 meeting centered around the district's water lock-off policy, which describes when the district will shut off customer's water after he or she has not paid their water and sewer bills.

Discussion on this issue arose after the owners of a trailer park in Birch Bay told district staff they would be late with their bill payments. District assistant manager Dan Eisses said this particular trailer park has been late on payments seven times in the last several years. Under the district's current lock-off policy, water to the trailer park would be shut off in about five months. He brought the issue up (originally at the board's June 23 meeting) in hopes of updating the district's lock-off policy, which has not changed since 1993.

The main issue was this: how should the district handle trailer parks and other kinds of multi-family residences who are late on water bill payments? If their water is shut off, any family living there will suffer, even though they're not responsible for the late payments. But without the threat of shut-off, back bill payments can rack up, costing the water and sewer district money.

Eisses and the three-member board of commissioners attempted to balance making sure innocent victims of late bill payments, such as those who live in trailer parks, were not hurt while pressing the importance of paying bills on time. Most opinion seemed to favor never cutting off the water supply of a multi-family residence, especially if that residence included its own, privately owned fire hydrant fed by a district water line. Besides completely shutting off the water, other options for punishing the owners of multi-family residences included the district seeking a foreclosure on the property.

After discussion with the board of commissioners went on for about 20 minutes, Eisses and district general manager Roger Brown decided to bring the issue back for further consideration at the board's next meeting on July 28.

Look for a story on this topic in the upcoming issue of The Northern Light. More information on the Birch Bay Water and Sewer District can be found here


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