City finance board looks at water issues

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 14, 2005

Ironton's Finance Committee may have felt like scuba divers Thursday since the group was immersed in water.

No, it was not caused by the steady rains this week but the discussion focused on two water issues - selling it and making people pay for it.

The committee did not take action on either plan but did talk significantly about the two issues. The first is a long-anticipated deal for the city to sell water to Hecla Water for $3.50 per thousand gallons. The plan would generate approximately $70,000 per year, of which at least some would be pure profit above the cost to produce the water.

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"(The contract) does still provide that water will be provided to the citizens of Ironton first, correct?" Councilman Richard Price asked.

Mayor John Elam said that would be the case. In the past, water filtration plant Superintendent Mark White assured council that the infrastructure is already in place to provide the service and that it would not affect the ability to provide water to the citizens.

Under the 1-year contract, Hecla would agree to purchase a maximum of 110,000 gallons per day or 3.4 million gallons per month. The city would bill Hecla for 1.8 million gallons per month, a total of $6,300, regardless of how much they actually use.

The other water-related topic focused on collecting long delinquent water bills and preventing the problem from occurring in the future. Currently, the city has more than $100,000 in delinquent bills. The big problem is that most are 8 to 10 years old.

The mayor would like to have two separate collection agencies try to recoup the funds. The plan would not cost the city anything since their fees would be approximately 30 percent of whatever is collect.

The committee also talked about ways to fix the problem. Currently, the water bills are assessed to either landlord or tenants, depending on whose name the bill is in. City leaders are asking the attorney to review a plan that would make the property owner the one responsible and then assess any delinquent charges to their property taxes.

"The bill should go straight to the property owner," Price said. "It is the land owner's responsibility to take care of."

In other business, Mayor Elam reported that the city's new street sweeper will be delivered next Tuesday and should be hitting the streets later in the week.