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Water bill issue resurfaces

January 26, 2017
By J.T. Whitehouse , The Town Crier

The issue over waving late fees for water customers in the city of Canfield was discussed at the Jan. 18 city council meeting.

The issue will be introduced as an ordinance at an upcoming meeting, possibly for the final time.

The subject came up over the summer months of 2016 when a customer asked to have a late fee waved. Council members looked at the issue and thought it might be a good idea to put in place criteria to allow for the waving of late fees by city employees.

"For 15 years before Joe Warino became city manager, these issues came to council on a case-by-case basis and still do," city attorney Mark Fortunato said.

He said there were only two councilmen in favor of an ordinance that would set guidelines for waving water bill late fees. Since there didn't seem to be enough support, work on presenting an ordinance was delayed. Also, Warino said the recent late fee issue was settled.

Mayor Bernie Kosar said he still thought it would be wise to have the ordinance.

"Why wouldn't we want to give Joe Warino the tools to run the city?" he said.

Resident Frank Micchia addressed council on the matter and said he believed it was an issue involving personal responsibility. He said water customers should know when they receive the bill that it must be paid within a certain time period.

Micchia asked if it were possible to go with an automatic payment system like other utilities use, and was informed by Finance Director Christine Stack-Clayton that the bank would charge the city for auto payments and the city could not recoup the fees.

"We couldn't charge the residents [that fee]," she said.

After a brief discussion, all agreed to have an ordinance on rules and guidelines for waving late fees for customers in good standing. Fortunato said he will prepare the ordinance for council's next regular meeting but warned it would not stop the waving requests.

"Even if the guidelines are passed, it would not prevent citizens from bringing requests to council," Fortunato said. "We really only have three choices. Either adopted the guidelines, say no exceptions period or continue on an ad-hoc basis."

All agreed that the next meeting would be the time to either vote in guidelines or leave it as it is now.

"Either way, it will put the matter to bed once and for all," Warino said.

On a different matter, a discussion was held on the North Broad Street Safety Upgrade Project Phase III with the Ohio Department of Transportation. Warino said the project will include drain upgrades, new curbs and rehabilitation of drive approaches.

The total project came in at $1.8 million, which was $200,000 more than originally expected.

"The city will have to pick up the cost of the road widening," Warino said. "We will go after a series of funding grants to cover that."

He said ODOT would not pay for the third turn lane in Phase III because traffic studies don't warrant it. The city wants to continue the middle turn lane up to Sleepy Hollow Drive and then will proceed with the two lanes to the turnpike bridge, which is also the city limits. The project also will not include sidewalks on the west side of the road, nor the continuation of the street lighting to match Phases I and II.

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