Blackville approves wording change to water billing ordinance

Blackville Town Council had the first reading of an ordinance to fix a problem with the water-billing system during its regular meeting Jan. 21.
The issue stems from the use of the word "reconnect" in the current water-billing ordinance. The ordinance states: Bills not paid by the end of the business day on the 25th day of each month will be disconnected on the 26th day of the month. A reconnect fee of $25 will be added to each bill and the bill must be paid in full before services can be reconnected.
The fine is automatically added to customers' bills by the computer program the town uses to manage water and sewer payments.
But town employees don't always get to all the properties on the disconnect list on the 26th day of each month, allowing customers with overdue bills to pay up before losing service. And customers have complained about being charged the reconnect fee even though their water hadn't been disconnected yet.
Town council decided to change the ordinance to read "nonpayment fee" instead of "reconnect fee." Council approved the first reading during the meeting. The vote was 5-0. Mayor Mike Beasley and Councilman Allen Harrison were not at the meeting.
Early in 2013, the town enacted a new water-billing system to help decrease the number of customers with outstanding bills. Beasley has said the new method is working.
Before the new policy, the town regularly had over 100 customers each month with unpaid bills - some owing hundreds of dollars, Beasley said. The new system put the cutoff date in place every month so people wouldn't rack up huge fines.