Imagine, if you will, getting this note clipped to your next copy of the newspaper: “Effective March 1, the cost of your subscription will be going up. You will be billed accordingly. Full reasons for the price increase are explained on page 10A.”

Frustrating? Probably. Some of you would accept it, others would decide we’re charging too much and quit your subscription. But what if you couldn’t? What if you had to keep taking the paper?

And what if March 1 came and went with no bill? You’d still get your paper every day, but no bill. There’d be no bill on April 1, July 1 or even January 1.

Just so we’re all clear, here’s what’s going on: We’ve raised the price of a paper, you can’t stop getting it, but you’re not paying for it… yet. Come next year, though, we’re going to start asking you for money from all of the months you didn’t get a bill, plus the current papers, and you still have no choice but to keep getting the paper.

Sound ridiculous? It doesn’t if you’re a Clinton resident who hasn’t gotten a sewer bill in almost a year.

Our City Finance Department was charged with two tasks: Implementing a newer sewer fee structure and implementing new billing software. They’ve had this responsibility since last summer, and only now are residential sewer bills starting to trickle out.

Despite the gross incompetence, no one has been held accountable. No employees have been publicly reprimanded for failing to carry out their duty. And the worst part is, the consumers — we can’t say customers because that implies the homeowners have some choice when it comes to their sewer service — have no recourse but to sit around and take it.

The issue came up at a City Council meeting last week, when a councilman asked City Clerk/Finance Director Deb Neels about the status of the sewer bills.

“It has been a monumental task that we probably underestimated, and the software vendors underestimated,” she said.

And we’re OK with that? We’re just taking this as a lesson learned and promising to do better next time? That kind of response wouldn’t fly in the private sector, but taxpayers are being forced to eat it from their city government. Mind you, this is a city government trying to ask the public for money to build new police and fire stations, so it needs all the good PR it can get.

Does someone need to be fired? Maybe. But right now, we don’t know who, because no one has done a good enough job of telling us where the chain of command broke down. Was it in City Hall? Was the software vendor underqualified? Who knows?

What we need is a full accounting of what went wrong and why, not just “we probably underestimated” some things.

We deserve some answers.

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