Kane collects delinquent sewer bills

Staff Writer

Threat of water shutoffs cuts unpaid Kane sewer bills

By Ted Lutz
Republican Staff
Faced with a threat of losing their water service, more Kane sewer customers with delinquent sewer bills are paying up.
The Pennsylvania Municipal Service Co. (PAMS), which collects Kane sewer bills, now issues notices quarterly for water shutoffs for long-time delinquent sewer accounts.
Previously, PAMS issued water shutoff notices just twice a year in an effort to collect unpaid sewer bills.
"We're a lot happier than we were," Dave "Chip" Peterson said Monday. "They (PAMS) stepped it up" to order water shutoffs to reduce delinquent sewer accounts.
Peterson is the chairman of the five-member authority, which met in public session Monday at the Kane borough building on Bayard Street.
Richard Lear, president of PAMS based in Oakmont near Pittsburgh, said last year that the quarterly water shutoff notices would make "a difference" in the number of delinquent Kane sewer bills.
He was right.
PAMS in December collected $27,457 in delinquent sewer bills for customers in Kane and sections of Wetmore Township.
A total of 33 unpaid bills were collected. Seven delinquent bills were more than $1,000. The top delinquent bill that has been collected is $6,242, according to figures provided by the authority.
"We're tightening up," Kane Borough Manager Don Payne said. "People are coming to the realization that they have to pay their bills."
Payne is the ex officio non-voting secretary of the authority.
It has been pointed out that residents pay their bills for electric, gas heat, water and either cable or satellite television service. The authority believes residents also should pay their sewer bills on time like any other utility.
"That's the way it should be," Payne said.
The authority in the past has indicated that failure to pay sewer bills is not fair to those who faithfully pay their sewer bills on time.
There are 2,053 customers in Kane and the sewer district in Wetmore Township.
Payne said the borough also will be enforcing health rules that ban inhabitation of a building without proper water and sewage.
Payne said the borough could contact Russ Braun of St. Marys to "post" a house as unlivable due to the lack of water and sewer. Braun is the Kane building inspector and handles regulatory duties for the borough under the state Uniform Construction Code (UCC).
Braun said Monday that evicting occupants from a "posted" house "rarely happens" because the residents most often come forward and pay their delinquent bills.
The authority in August 2014 asked PAMS to take a tougher stance on collecting delinquent accounts. At that time, unpaid Kane sewer bills totaled more than $92,000.
Council last September renewed an agreement with PAMS for the collection of sewer bills.
PAMS has been collecting Kane sewer bills since the local water company-- Pennsylvania American Water-- made a company-wide decision to handle only water bills. Kane sewer bills once were part of water bills issued by Pennsylvania American Water.
PAMS charges a $50 fee when it notifies the water company to terminate water at a residence for a long-term unpaid sewer bill. This is part of a surcharge passed on to the delinquent customer.
Some Kane residents have complained about the PAMS fees.
"If you want to put the company out of business, pay your bills on time," Payne has said.