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Water users soon may be able to pay online

| Friday, Dec. 3, 2010

NEW KENSINGTON — Water customers soon should be able to pay bills online for a fee.

The New Kensington Water Authority board voted, 5-0, on Thursday night to have General Manager James Matta and Solicitor James Nardelli Sr. negotiate with Hammer Enterprises of Texas for its E-net pay service.

Customers could access a screen with their account number and other information and pay via Discover, Visa or American Express credit cards.

A customer service charge of about $5.95 per $100 is expected to be added.

"We're getting more and more requests from our customers for this service and, in this day and age, it's a nice option to offer," Matta said.

The only problem for Nardelli and authority members is the stipulation that Texas law be used to arbitrate disputes.

Hampton Township and the Westmoreland water authority are among the suppliers who report customer satisfaction for Hammer's pay-online service.

Rate increase considered

Discussion on a rate hike is under way.

The authority has to close a deficit of about $382,500.

The deficit is about 6 percent of the authority's $6.35 million budget.

Gibson-Thomas Engineering Co. presented three options to the board last night to close that gap.

One would be about a 10.4 increase across the board to all water customers.

Another calls for a 12 percent increase for customers that use in excess of 800 cubic feet of water a month.

That would exempt most senior citizens and low-income customers — about 28 percent of the ratepayers, because they tend to use less water.

The rate would increase for those customers from $3.15 per cubic foot to $3.53.

A third possibility is a rate increase of 10, 15 or 20 percent for the 38 largest customers, who use more than 31,000 cubic feet of water each month.

The last rate hike was in August 2005.

Part of the need to close the revenue gap is a request by PennVEST that is tied to the $1 million grant to install a clarifier unit at the filtration plant.

New landlord policy

A new landlord/tenant service policy is expected to be implemented soon.

The new policy would have only landlords sign up for water service every time they get a new tenant.

Currently, a tenant may register for water service and later leave town with a delinquent bill. State law only allows the authority to pursue deadbeats for 90 days.

Authority members feel it is easier to pursue one landlord than multiple renters.

Even with a new policy, current landlords and tenants will be "grandfathered" into the existing policy.

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