St. George residents asked to pay outstanding water bills or risk having water shut off

St. George – If you live in St. George, and you have an outstanding balance on your water bill, you need to think about getting it paid, or making a payment arrangement, before those services are shut off.

Among several things discussed at the July 13 St. George Common Council meeting was the several outstanding water bills that must be paid. CAO Jason Gaudet said they are in particular looking at outstanding bills dating back to 2018.

“The big thing right now we’re dealing with is delinquent water accounts,” said Gaudet. “We have 21 delinquent accounts from 2018. There’s people out there who haven’t paid water bills in three years. So, 21 of those have been sent notices, and if they’re not paid when we come out of this state of emergency, they’ll be shut off. It’s unfortunate, but after three years, we’ve got to do something.”

According to Gaudet, April 1 is usually the shut-off date for delinquent water accounts. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the provincial state of emergency that date was put on hold. But, once the state of emergency ends, the town will be looking closer at these accounts, and taking steps to ether collect payments or begin shut-offs.

“It’s unfortunate, but council passed guidelines a couple of years ago for water shutoffs,” said Gaudet. “It’s not something we have done a whole lot of in the past as a town, but it’s something moving forward that we know we will do. We depend a lot on water and sewage payments. That’s how we do our capital projects. That’s how we pay for our water system. If you’re $24,000 in the hole, just from users in 2018 (there’s 2019 people that are in there too), you can easily rack up $40,000 just in delinquent accounts.”

Gaudet compared the delinquent water accounts to other utility payments, such as electricity. He said if someone were to go many months without paying NB Power for electricity, their service would be shut off. He said they are not currently looking at accounts from 2019 for shut-off at this time. The town merely wants to start collecting on the accounts that have not been paid since 2018 and are still active.

“They’re all still active. It’s not something we like to do, but unfortunately with operating a utility it’s something we have to do. There’s 21 accounts, and they equated to a total of just over $24,000. That’s a lot of money.

“People will pay NB Power and be right on top of that, but sometimes when it comes to water and sewage payments, it seems to be something they tuck away and say ‘I’ll pay it eventually’.”

Gaudet said the payments from water bills go to fund capital projects and to pay for the water and sewage. He said they are not trying to cause any hardship, and there are many ways people can go about paying for their bills, including setting up payment plans so they don’t have to pay everything all at once.

“We have many different ways for people to pay,” said Gaudet. “They can pay online. They can make monthly installments, like an automated feature. Just come into the town hall and discuss some payment plans with us. That at least helps get things on the right track.

Each year, it just keeps adding to it and adding to it, and not even a few dollars being put on it. It can overwhelm somebody I’m sure. We certainly don’t want to have to go down that road. It’s the last thing we want to do, but it’s one of those necessities.”

sarigreen@stcroixcourier.ca