Wilmington officials address water shut-offs


By John Hamilton - jhamilton@wnewsj.com



WILMINGTON — City officials have spoken about concerns over recent water shut-offs.

According to a statement from Public Works Director Rick Schaffer, the city received a notification from the Ohio Environment Protection Agency on June 12 that a suspension of water payments would be lifted on July 10.

“City officials discussed the situation to find an equitable way to handle this difficult situation,” said Safety/Service Director Brian Shidaker. “Continuing to allow people to avoid paying their utility bill would result in them falling further behind on their bill, making their problem bigger.”

A payment plan policy was enacted, providing qualifying customers behind on their bills six or 12 months to make payments depending on the amount owed.

The release states that letters went out over the past few weeks to customers who were behind on their utility bills, notifying them of the payment plan availability. The letter gave customers three weeks to pay their balance, enter into a payment plan, or face disconnection of water service.

In a July statement from the Ohio EPA, Director Laurie A. Stevenson ordered the termination as part of the state’s Responsible RestartOhio efforts.

“We strongly encourage all of Ohio’s water systems to work with their local partners to expand existing or develop new assistance programs as able,” said Stevenson. “Ohio’s utilities have demonstrated tremendous leadership throughout this crisis, and many are now proactively implementing new and innovative programs to assist customers during these challenging times. We applaud those efforts and would like to see more utilities across the state offer flexibility in payment plans to keep as many Ohioans on public drinking water as possible.”

Wilmington City Councilmember and Public Works Committee Chair Kelsey Swindler has asked the subject to be on the committee’s agenda for its regular meeting this Thursday, according to the statement.

“We look forward to discussing this to find both short- and long-term solutions to the issue of water affordability,” said Shidaker, adding they were following current state and local laws and policies.

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By John Hamilton

jhamilton@wnewsj.com

Reach John Hamilton at 937-382-2574.

Reach John Hamilton at 937-382-2574.