Sewer shut-off notices mailed

Shut-off notices have been issued for approximately 300 sewer accounts in the City of Warren.

City Manager Nancy Freenock announced the notices to Warren City Council at its meeting last Monday evening, indicating that the total amount in delinquent bills is $141,300.

Two separate problems have arisen with the sewer billing process in addition to the shut-off notices.

“It was supposed to be the property owner that was being billed,” Freenock said, explaining that when Pennsylvania Municipal Services (PAMS) took over billing it “went along with whoever they were billing for water. In most cases (they) were billing tenants.”

Freenock said that the Finance Committee was concerned about violating landlord-tenant leases in the event who the bill goes to was changed.

“I don’t see that this would be interfering,” said City Solicitor Andrea Stapleford. “If it is provided in the lease, if there is a written lease, that the tenant is responsible. (It is) not the city’s responsibility to change how that gets paid. (It is) up to the landlord to ensure it gets paid. The landlord will be aware of the cost and due date.”

“If a lease was entered into in violation of city ordinance,” Councilman Gregory Fraser said, “it would be a violation of law.”

Freenock said that she has received “a number of complaints about PAMS,” indicating that the city will be looking for another collector of sewer fees.

She said some of the complaints include PAMS not returning calls, being mean to customers and indicating it could not help with problems raised.

“I don’t see a reason not to make this change,” she said of billing the property owner instead of the tenant.

“I got a specific one,” said Councilman Sam Harvey. “I paid a bill twice. I called them and got the run-around. They definitely have some issues over there.”