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Water and Sewer Authority executives: Stay on water shutoffs is over

The grace period or moratorium since March on water shutoffs by utilities is about to come to an end, as the Williamsport Municipal Water and Sanitary Authority tries to recuperate from losing $1 million it can’t retrieve due to COVID-related financial hardships.

“We’re going to start notifying customers of shut-offs happening in mid-September,” said Michael D. Miller, executive director of the Williamsport Municipal Water and Sanitary Authority. The list of those in arrears exceeded 1,600 customers as of this week. The authority board listened as management explained its dilemma.

“We haven’t issued shut-off notices or terminated services for months,” Miller said, announcing how the staff came up with a new way to ensure compliance by customers.

Instead of the blue cards — that give customers a day or two before water is shut off — a pink card will be issued to delinquent homes. It will be personally attached to door knobs starting in mid-September.

It will notify the homeowner or business owner he or she has 10 days to get with the authority office personnel and arrange with them a payment schedule, he said.

The blue card distribution will then pick back up in October as collection resumes, Miller said. “You don’t get a card (blue or pink) if you set up payments,” he said. “We’re giving people about a month to work with us and set up a payment schedule to pay down overages.”

The coronavirus fear factor in keeping people from visiting the authority office won’t be an excuse.

“We’d like them to call the office to make arrangements to come in, that way people won’t flood the office and we can keep people safe,” said John Baker, authority finance director.

The $1 million is lost revenue, unable to be collected. The bills in arrears will be collected but not the penalties.

Another loss has been lower usage due to businesses closing, restaurants at limited capacity and the loss of this year’s Little League World Series, Baker said.

These are factors that will impact the authority as it budgets and prepares for next year. “We always budget conservatively but there is no way to budget for something like this,” Baker said.

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