Jeffersonville to flush out sewer scofflaws by shutting off wate - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Jeffersonville to flush out sewer scofflaws by shutting off water

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Kelly Dempsey Kelly Dempsey
Elisha Dale Elisha Dale
Barb Anderson Barb Anderson
Charles Thompson Charles Thompson

JEFFERSONVILLE, IN (WAVE) - Kelly Dempsey's not exactly flush with cash.

"I've got a balance of twenty dollars to pay," she told WAVE 3 News.

Dempsey is among dozens of Jeffersonville residents eager, even anxious to square up on past due fees for sewage treatment.

"We're gonna shut off water service otherwise," said Elisha Dale, collections manager.

"In my case, I rent, so I've got to pay it," Dempsey said. "If I don't, my landlord - it'll probably fall to him and he won't be very happy."

The Sanitary Sewer Board is expected to spell out the particulars Thursday. But city leaders have agreed, in principle, to authorize Indiana American Water Company to disconnect customers who owe more than $100 or are more than 90 past due on sewer bills.

"We're like $1.2 million in delinquents," Dale said.

Sewer fees have risen sharply, to pay for improvements and repairs as part of a consent agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

"We had been placing liens on properties, but nothing ever came of that," said Dale. "They'd just deduct those lien amounts from their property taxes."

Shaming by naming didn't work either. Jeffersonville had published a list of those who owe the most in the News and Tribune, the newspaper that serves as content partner for WAVE 3 News in southern Indiana.

Among the delinquent is Haven House Services, which provides emergency shelter and medical assistance to the homeless. Haven House owes more than $13,700. Barb Anderson, the Haven House director, vows to sue if Jeffersonville tries to shut off its water.

"My top priority is feeding 75 homeless people," said Anderson. "State law requires that I have water to operate, so does the fire marshal. This ordinance applies only to residential customers. We're a commercial entity, at least in this sense."

Jeffersonville's Director of Legal Affairs begs to differ.

"The Sewer Board will define the terms," attorney Les Merkley said. "But the ordinance makes no distinction."

The ordinance creates provisions to appeal service shutoffs.

"We're not gonna bombard all of them," Dale said. "Anybody that's willing to come in and want to make arrangements or pay—just let me know they're trying to make an effort. I will work with them."

Dale said the Wastewater Department is acquiring software to allow customers to settle up accounts via credit card and online. Administrators expect the system to be up and running in early 2014.

"That's one reason we're giving everybody thirty days – really, until the end of the year, to make provisions to pay," Dale said.

Charles Thompson hasn't fallen behind, but he made sure to show up at the Wastewater Department's offices Tuesday with check in hand.

"I'm 72 years old. I'm old school," said Thompson. "It's bad, in a way. I feel sorry for the people who can't afford it. But then, there's no other way you can do it."

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