CW discusses water billing; sidewalk program


By Linda Dillman
Staff Writer

Labor-intensive hours devoted to tagging non-compliant water customers, coupled with an easier way to pay city utilities, dominated a discussion on billing procedures by the Canal Winchester service and safety committee on Oct. 19.

According to Public Works Director Matt Peoples, it takes about 12.5 man hours per billing cycle to tag meters on the verge of shut-off. The city is investigating alternative methods in alerting customers before their water is turned off, such as inserting a warning in a late bill notification.

According to Finance Director Amanda Jackson, many of the meters tagged are the same ones each billing cycle.

Jackson said the beginning of the new utility billing cycle in 2016 could bring changes for paying a bill, which are mailed to residents on a bi-monthly schedule.

“We’re looking at different options to make it easier,” said Jackson. “Probably the biggest complaint we receive is that we don’t take online payments. One of our other options is to email bills. It would cut down on printing costs and (customers would) not wait for mail delivery. We’re working out details and hopefully have this wrapped up by the first billing in 2016.”

Water, sanitary sewer and storm water payments made online would be through a vendor selected by the city to process payments through a secure website. A convenience fee would be assessed by the vendor for each transaction.

Jackson is unsure how many customers will sign on for electronic payments, but, as always, the city accepts cash, check and credit card payments at the municipal office. There is also a 24-hour drop box available at the municipal building.

Sidewalk program
Proposed changes in Canal Winchester’s sidewalk program could potentially reduce costs for affected property owners by having the city take charge of the program and offer services to residents.

Property owners would retain the option to contract work on their own, but the city is discussing offering an alternative.

According to Peoples, the difference under the new guidelines is the city will be paying for the work and billing the property owners for half of the cost.

“Currently, the property owner pays for the work and the city reimburses half of the approved costs,” said Peoples.  “Additionally, our inspections are complaint driven and we would go to a more active inspection schedule of geographic locations. We anticipate doing our inspections on a geographic basis, but will still respond to complaints and we would include those sidewalks that do not pass inspections in the street program.”

Peoples said homeowners and the city  have problems getting contractors to work on projects such as small sections of sidewalks and curb repairs. By working on a larger scale, the city will include sidewalk repair in its street construction program.

The city’s current approved cost for sidewalk removal and replacement is $8.55 per square foot with the city reimbursing 50 percent. A typical sidewalk section is 16 square feet and costs approximately $136.80 per square.

“With most of the grant requests we have seen recently, property owners are being charged $10 and up per square foot,” said Peoples. “We do not have any firm numbers for this work, but feel we will get better pricing due to the volume of work we are bidding out.”

In addition, there will be no permit fee if the city is responsible for the work.

In addressing the time period a property owner has to do the work themselves before the city steps in, Peoples said his department is working on the details, in addition to defining the opt-out provisions. A property owner receives their grant after the forms and subgrade and final pour are inspected. If a property owner does not pay their portion of sidewalk replacement under the new program, Peoples said he anticipates the cost will be applied to their property taxes.

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