CLINTON – Business owners won’t be able to dodge sewer bills while staying in operation under an ordinance amendment that was approved by City Council members Tuesday.
City staff has been discussing ways beyond the typical lien process to deter businesses from running up delinquent sewer bills, City Attorney Jeff Farwell explained to council members during their Committee of the Whole meeting Tuesday night.
“The problem is, you can do a lot of liens before something ever happens and before there’s a tax sale and a lot of money can get accumulated,” Farwell said. “And of course, if nobody buys the property at the tax sale, it never gets paid.”
The amendment would allow the city to revoke the certificate of occupancy, the city-issued document that gives the business permission to operate, if the business had a sewer bill that was delinquent by more than 120 days and/or the delinquent bill was $2,500 or more.
Notice would be sent to the bill holder alerting them that if they don’t pay the bill within 14 days, the certificate of occupancy would be revoked.
If in 10 days the account wasn’t cured and brought current, the building would be placarded by the Building and Neighborhood Services Department declaring the certificate of occupancy had been revoked and the building would not be occupied for any reason.
“Bills tend to get paid then if the doors are locked,” Farwell said.
The certificate of occupancy would be reinstated only after payment of the outstanding sewer bills and a re-inspection from the BNS department.
Residential properties would not be affected by the new protocol. Apartments are classified as commercial if the sewer bill is in the name of the landlord rather than each tenant having its own meter. Commercial apartments, which are issued a rental compliance certificate, which is the equivalent of the certificate of occupancy, would also be subject to the delinquent bill rules.
Ward 4 Councilman Paul Gassman told fellow council members that when the program came through Rules and Regulations committee it was designed not to tie up city staff with chasing small delinquent bills, but to solve the problems that could come from a larger business.
“At the meeting everybody decided who were the ones who were violating it. It wasn’t residential, it was more commercial,” Gassman said. “It’s more directed to the bigger ones and not the smaller.”
Council members unanimously approved the amendment and it will go to the next City Council meeting for final approval.