McMinnville Water Department director Anthony Pelham is asking for consistency in the city’s water cut-off policy.
“One of the things I’ve run into immediately is I’m now the bad guy who tells people to cut people’s water off,” said Pelham, who has been with the city since Jan. 4. “With that you certainly want to be compassionate. You want to be understanding to people who are having hard times. It’s not my intent to not do that. But, within our existing policy and the way we have been acting prior to my coming, it has been inconsistent. Our policy is not clear.”
The information was presented to the city Water and Sewer Committee with members Jimmy Bonner, chair, Everett Brock and Mike Neal.
One of the problems, said Pelham, is a statement in the city’s water cut-off policy that says, “Help is available to customers who are experiencing hardship or who have extenuating circumstances.” This statement leaves him to determine acceptable hardships.
Pelham asked permission to change the policy to remove the statement and make the cutoff 10 days after the date when the customer incurs a late fee for not paying on time, removing his need to decide if an individual meets an undetermined hardship or extenuating circumstance.
The only reprieve would be if the 10th day lands on a Friday, weekend or holiday, says Pelham.
“I don’t propose to cut anybody off on Friday, to minimize the weekend fees and those things,” said Pelham. “If it falls on a Friday, weekend or holiday, the cut-off date would be the next business day. That’s essentially what I’m trying to put in black and white into our policy.”
There are also written discrepancies within the policy that need to be changed, says Pelham.
“For example, a post-it note that we hang on door says ‘until 3 o’clock, cash only’ and we hang that on their door,” said Pelham. “When we look on the back of the bill that we send out, it says we aren’t going to hang notices or send notices. We are going to cut you off on this specific date. Then, when we look at the last actual approved policy we have, it says we will send a first-class notice to everyone on the cut-off list and give them forewarning and give them 10 days to pay.”
A written policy, with proposed suggested changes, was presented to committee members Tuesday for their review and consideration at the next committee meeting.