Herald JournalHerald Journal, Nov. 17, 2003

Waverly to add delinquent bills to taxes

By Paul Maravelas

Faced with more than $20,000 in delinquent utility bills, the Waverly City Council has decided to add about 20 unpaid bills to property tax statements.

Several residents attended a public hearing Wednesday, to argue that their water and sewer charges were incurred by previous owners and ought to be paid by them.

But the residents were told that they are ultimately responsible for the bills as current owners of the property.

The city produced a list of 23 property owners who owe altogether more than $24,000.

The unpaid bills range from $118 to more than $2,500. A handful of the 23 bills were paid up before Wednesday night's hearing, and one was deferred for six months, bringing the total to be assessed to just more than $20,000.

Residents George and Judith Hudson told the council that their $162 bill related to water and sewer charges from five-and-a-half years ago, when the property was owned by a previous resident.

"I don't understand why I have to pay bills that don't belong to me," George Hudson exclaimed. "I've got enough of my own."

But Mayor Charlie Bush expressed a different view. "The city provided the service," he said, "and should be paid."

Various members of the audience offered advice to the council and to the Hudsons, ranging from tax liens to small claims court.

Real estate agent Craig Smith said that the Hudsons' purchase agreement most likely obligated the previous resident to pay utility charges incurred before the property changed hands, and the current residents ought to settle the delinquent bills and pursue the matter with the previous owner.

The title company used for the closing could probably help, he said.

The council agreed to extend a six-month grace period to Allen and Roxanne Kugel, whose $907 bill will then be paid during nine months. Kugel told the council that the unpaid bill was from 1999, and was, again, for sewer and water charges incurred by the previous resident.

A letter from the owner of a rental property on Pacific Avenue asked the city to accept $100 per month for two years to settle a bill amounting to $2,100, but the council declined the offer.

The city will add the utility bills to tax statements only for those delinquent bills amounting to more than $100. Once on the tax statement, utility charges will accrue a 6 percent interest charge.

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