By HEATHER NELLIS
TOWN OF MOHAWK -- Village officials say their recent vote to shut off water and sewer services at a town residence due to non-payment highlights the need for town water and sewer districts.
Roughly one-third of the village's water users live outside the village, and receive services under contract, said Clerk and Treasurer JoAnn Downing. But if one of them fails to make payment, the village has no recourse to collect the unpaid funds.
"We can't relevy unpaid bills because they're outside the village," Downing said.
The village board on Monday voted to shut off services at a Wemple Avenue property for violating the user contract, but would wait 30 days to give tenants notice at the two-family rental.
Downing said the $1,611.12 outstanding balance for sewer services stem from several bills, the earliest dated April 1, 2012, though the water bill is current.
Mayor William Peeler said the contract states if the bill goes unpaid more than 60 days, the board may terminate services upon notice to the state health department. Downing said she's mailed the property owner several notices of the unpaid bills.
"It's gone on long enough," Downing said. "We've got to have it paid."
"As long as people take care of the water bill, we're cool with it, because we'll just relevy the sewer bill," Downing said. "But we have no way to relevy bills for users outside the village."
While the board discussed the shut-off resolution, village Attorney Michael Albanese said the cities of Johnstown and Gloversville publish notices in the newspaper for such shutoffs to alert renters, and also send notice to the social services department, because once the water is shut off, the home becomes uninhabitable.
"What happens is tenants pay rent, but the landlords don't pay the water bill," Albanese said. "So, by publishing it in the newspaper, it lets the tenants know, and they can make arrangements, because they know the code enforcement officer is going to come in and shut the place down, because it's uninhabitable without running water."
Downing said there are 485 water and sewer users total, and a third of them live outside the village. There are 125 customers on Hickory Hill Road alone, she said.
"Every one outside the village is under individual contract," Downing said. "We didn't even have anything in writing until 1999, when we finally sent each person a contract."
"The best thing to happen would be the town create water districts," said Peeler.
"That's what's supposed to happen," Albanese said. "The town has to create the water district for this specific reason, because we don't have jurisdiction in the town. You can't enforce village rules in the town of Mohawk."
"Why that's never happened, I don't know. It took the town of Johnstown almost 20 years. It took pressure from the state for it to happen. It's supposed to be done when the water is extended," Albanese said.
"That's not our problem, though, it's the town of Mohawk's," Albanese added.
Downing admitted outgoing Mohawk town Supervisor Greg Rajkowski had a full plate during his term in undertaking the revaluation process.
"We did the reval, and then we had the flood," Rajkowski said Friday. "The water districts kind of fell by the wayside. I think they need to be created, but it just never happened.
Rajkowski, who's term ends in December, said the issue is something he's added to a list of ongoing issues for the new administration to address.