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City sending shutoff notices to water bill delinquents.

Byline: Matthew Brunn

FITCHBURG - Shutoff notices will be mailed in the next two weeks to delinquent water customers as the city seeks to step up collections of nearly $1.2 million in overdue bills.

Deputy Commissioner for Water Denis R. Meunier said just under 2,000 of the city's approximately 11,000 customers have bills overdue by just over a month to a year. After a year, he said, the city can put a lien on the properties.

Shutting off water service has long been a legal option for the Water Department, Mr. Meunier said, but only now is it getting put into use.

The City Council has made clear that it will not support a proposed increase in water rates unless more is done to collect the overdue bills.

Mr. Meunier said shutoff notices should start going out within the next two weeks, after which customers will have an opportunity to request a hearing with the commissioner of public works.

If no payment plan or other resolution is achievable, he said, then he expects water service will start being shut off in 60 to 90 days.

"That's not our goal," Mr. Meunier said, noting he would rather get customers to pay than shut them off.

"When those payments fall behind we have to crack down," Mayor Lisa A. Wong said at her weekly news conference Wednesday, where Mr. Meunier also appeared to discuss the shutoff notices.

Though the ordinance allowing water service to be shut off has never been used before, Mr. Meunier said the city has not let overdue bills slide. In the last fiscal year, he said, the city collected about $470,000 in overdue water bills through its lien process.
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jul 23, 2009
Words:284
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