Blackville fixes leaky ordinance

Blackville Town Council had the final vote to fix a wording problem in the town's water-billing ordinance during the regular meeting Feb. 17.
Council approved the ordinance amendment, which replaces the word "reconnect" with "nonpayment fee."
The ordinance originally read: 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 fee is automatically added to customers' bills by the computer program the town uses to manage water and sewer bill 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.
At the request of Town Clerk Harriett McKnight, who's had to deal with customers' complaints, council decided to change the ordinance to read "nonpayment fee" instead of "reconnect fee." The final vote was 5-0. Mayor Mike Beasley and Councilman Kelvin Isaac 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.
In other business:
Council approved the newly formed recreation committee's mission statement. It reads in part: Our main objective is to help our students develop their inner talents and improve their overall skills and build confidence needed for success in today's society and schools. ..."
The department's director is Jessie Dukes. Board members are: Bridgett Brown, Barry Black, Fred Jamison, Leon Harrison, Kelvin Butler and Earl Nix.
On the agenda for the meeting was a vote on whether to join the intergovernmental agreement to fund a gang task force. Council did not have the vote, though. Mayor Pro Tem Vivian Alston said the town will join the agreement eventually, but that council needs more information about how the task force will operate before officially voting on the agreement. The cost to Blackville for the task force is set at $24,000 annually.