Arnold Council hears more sewer bill complaints
Arnold Council is assuring residents that their complaints about sewage billing aren't flushed down the drain once the monthly council meetings are over.
However, Mayor Larry Milito warned there are limits to what council can do to help.
Residents and landlords on Tuesday again hammered city officials with problems regarding the billing process and the city's collection agent, Oakmont-based Pennsylvania Municipal Service Co.
Although complaints have come regularly for two years since the city switched to usage-based sewage fees and hired PAMS to collect them, reports of problems escalated in recent months when the city arranged to have the water shut off to houses with delinquent sewage accounts.
City Clerk Floyd Newingham said PAMS this month sent the New Kensington water authority 123 shutoff orders for Arnold properties with delinquent sewage bills. However, he said the authority still is processing those notices because some of the houses are without water service.
About 500 account holders were warned this year they would be shut off if the accounts weren't made current. Last month, Newingham said the number of delinquencies had been reduced to about 370.
Tuesday's complaints included PAMS' addition of delinquency fees to the bills, customers receiving conflicting reports on the amount of and reason for the fees, delays in landlords receiving final bills for tenants who move out, and landlords or new owners being billed for previous tenants' delinquencies.
Arnold resident and landlord Mary Stapinski was angered by a bill she received in March for a tenant who had moved out in December, despite her requests months ago to get a final bill.
She said she can hold a tenant's security deposit for only 30 days and doesn't have problems getting prompt final bills from other utilities.
“This isn't my bill,” she said, waving the envelope. “I should not be responsible.”
Since she tried to address the delinquency before now, she said she especially shouldn't be charged the late fees.
Residents Karen Corey, Cassandra Houser and Joseph DiMaria said they struggle to get clear answers on how much they owe because they'd be told different amounts on the phone and in person, or would receive additional bills after they were told account were paid.
“I'm at my wits end with this,” DiMaria said.
No one from PAMS was available for comment late Tuesday.
Corey questioned why the city continues to use PAMS in the face of continual complaints.
Milito said the city is in the third and final year of its contract with PAMS.
He said the company has not done anything that warrants the city backing out of the deal.
Milito said officials are investigating other billing options, but he said there are few firms available. He said it would be more expensive to have the billing handled at city hall or by the water authority.
“We're hearing everything you're telling us,” Milito said.
“I take it very seriously,” said Councilman David Horvat, who oversees city finances and has met with PAMS several times. “We're doing everything we can.”
City Solicitor John Pallone cautioned people that they may be getting a skewed view of how many problems there really are with PAMS. He said it's a relatively small pool of people who have complaints when compared with the estimated 2,200 customers in the city.
Pallone said he's had no problems dealing with PAMS personally for his Arnold office or his home in New Kensington.
Arnold resident and landlord John Black said he hasn't had problems with tenant delinquencies because he keeps the sewage bills in his name and factors the cost into his leases.
“It isn't as bleak as it's painted to be,” Pallone said.
Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4680 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Body found in Allegheny River in Harrison
- Puppy, pals come to rescue of Lower Burrell firefighters
- Police investigate reports bus driver allowed Fox Chapel students to change clothes
- Christmas parade gets warm welcome in Saxonburg
- Retirements help trim Arnold budget
- Pair of crashes snarl Route 28 traffic
- South Butler students push composting as a way to slow food waste
- Congressman Rothfus visits Kistaco Farm in Kiski Township
- New Kensington-Arnold School Board reviews facilities use policy
- Apollo-Ridge closer to naming buildings, facilities
- Harrison man held in jail on molestation charges