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City looking to crack down on late water, sewer payments
City hall

The City of Dawsonville is working to update an ordinance in hopes of discouraging water and sewer customers from paying their bills late, resulting in an abundance of requests for reconnection every month.

City Attorney Dana Miles has drafted a new version of an ordinance that updates the fines the city will charge to reconnect water and sewer service following disconnection due to nonpayment or late payment. The new ordinance is an attempt to crack down on those who pay late or not at all multiple times within a 24 month period.

Currently, nonpayment of a bill by the last day of the month in which the bill is due results in the city disconnecting the water, so long as the payment is greater than $75.

The first reading of the updated ordinance was held Aug. 20 at the city council’s work session.

“We have had a lot of people who are very, very late in paying their bills to the tune of having a lot of cutoffs each month, sometimes the same people almost every month,” Mayor Mike Eason said. “So what we’re trying to do is put some more teeth in it so that they understand the importance of what we’re trying to do here with these ordinances and the regulations and things.”

According to the current ordinance, the first time water and sewer service are reconnected there is a $25 fine, the second time a $50 fine and the third time a $100 fine.

The new reconnection fees would charge $50 for the first reconnection during a 24 month period, $100 for the second time within a 24 month period and $200 for the third time within a 24 month period. Each subsequent violation beyond the third reconnection within a 24 month period would result in a reconnection fee increase of $100 from the previous violation, the proposed ordinance states.

All outstanding bills as well as the reconnection fees must be paid in order for reconnection to occur. In the current ordinance, there is no designated time in which the reconnection has to occur after those fees are paid.

The new ordinance would make it so that the city has until 4 p.m. of the next business day to reconnect the services.

Utilities Director Gary Barr explained that having until the next day to complete the reconnections will keep his employees from having to work overtime as well as help make people pay on time.

“When we cut their water off at 3 o’clock and they walk in the door at city hall to pay their bill at 4:15 or 4:25 (they) want their water cut back on so we’re having to pay overtime for our staff to go out and take care of this,” Barr said. “If they paid at 4 o’clock say, we’re trying to clean up the tools, put everything up before 4:30, everybody gets off at 4:30. We can’t go cut them on and be done in the evening, it’s going to take a little overtime.”

The proposed ordinance also tweaks the appeal process, wherein anyone can appeal the revocation of their sewerage permit, water and sewer service, garbage service or any combination of those services to the city council.

The proposed ordinance does not address late fees, which are currently $25, but the council asked Miles to address that before the second reading. According to Eason, around 250 out of the city’s 1,200 water and sewer customers were mailed late notices in July.

“We send out a lot of late notices every month...it’s a little overboard. A lot overboard,” Barr said. “We’ve got one customer that’s been late continuously for three years. And there ain’t nothing I can do.”

The second reading of the ordinance will be held at 7 p.m. Sept. 10.

The city has also proposed an ordinance update in order to set a new application fee and annual business license fee for tattoo studios and the artists they employ.

The new license application fee for a tattoo studio as well as for each tattoo artist would be reduced from $500 to $50, and the annual fee would be reduced from $500 to $100.

The tattoo ordinance was last amended in 2000.

The city council will have two public readings of the proposed ordinance update, set for 7 p.m. Sept. 10 and Sept. 24.

All meetings of the city council are held in the second floor assembly room at city hall, located at 415 Hwy. 53 E in Dawsonville.