City's water ordinance continues to irk customers

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By Linda Ireland

  The City of Hodgenville’s latest water bill ordinance was enacted in March 2011 – but it still takes some people by surprise.

The ordinance increased water and sewer deposits for non-property owners by $50 to $150.

Homeowners are not required to pay a deposit but if they default on a bill, a lien may be placed on their property.

Justin Stinnett, who recently purchased a rental home outside Hodgenville, found that out when his renters tried to get the water turned on.

Stinnett said the City refused to provide water service until the balance owed by the previous owners was paid.

His renters, who have two children, paid the outstanding $41 so they could get water service. They paid an additional $150 deposit to the City as renters.

City Clerk MaDonna Hornback said she has told local landlords and financial institutions about the ordinance.

Basically, the bill has to be paid.

In Stinnett’s situation, the former property owners did not have an outstanding bill at the time the title search was prepared. They incurred a small bill after that.

“They didn’t want to pay the minimum usage bill,” said Hornback. (Minimum usage for a month is 0 to 3,000 gallons.) 

The former property owners eventually paid the bill and the renters’ check was returned to them, she added.

If a renter moves and skips out on a water bill, the City maintains a record of it, said Hornback. Many times that person will return to Hodgenville and again try to get water service.

“Guess who has to pay their bill before they get service,” she said.

The ordinance has resulted in landlords “checking their renters more closely,” she added.

The ordinance is supported by the Kentucky League of Cities, said Hornback. It was approved in a 5-1 vote by City Council.

Stinnett said there was no lien on the property and his renters shouldn’t have been denied service. He said it is unfair for renters or new property owners to be held accountable for bills they didn’t incur.

“It’s not my bill,” he said, adding that a lien was not placed on the property.

Hodgenville Mayor Terry Cruse has said the City had about $20,000 in unpaid water bills when he took office. The ordinance has alleviated much of that problem.