Warren changes sewer billing

Nearly two years after switching to a third-party biller, the City of Warren is returning to billing property owners for sewage usage in an attempt to reduce the number of delinquent accounts, most of which are rental properties.

City Manager Nancy Freenock sent a letter to property owners on July 24, stating that owners of real estate “are responsible for payment of all associated sewer usage fees regardless of whether you occupy your property or whether it is occupied/rented by a third party (per City of Warren Ordinance No. 1586).”

A total of 4,032 bills were sent out for a total current billing of $161,288. Of those, 3,631 were residential, 343 were commercial, 30 were industrial, 28 were other or public. Of the 4,032 bills sent out, 1,634 are tenant occupied and 2,398 are owner occupied.

The total delinquent balance on the accounts is $180,454, which includes delinquent fees. There are 25 accounts nine owner-occupied and 16 tenant-occupied that owe more than $1,000, according to the city.

Pennsylvania American Water Co. had collected sewer usage fees for the city for nearly 20 years and billed non-owner tenants for sewer usage.

In October 2012, PAWC stopped sewer billing for city customers and Pennsylvania Municipal Services Co. was selected as the third-party biller and continued the practice established by PAWC.

“Due to a large number of delinquent accounts, the majority of which are related to rental properties, the City has determined that a return to invoicing the property owner for sewer usage charges is appropriate. This practice will allow the property owner to be fully aware of all sewer use charges for which he/she is responsible at the time that they are incurred. It is anticipated that this will significantly reduce the number of delinquent accounts. This change is effective immediately,” the letter said. “If there are arrearages associated with tenant accounts and which have been incurred since the time that PAMS began billing for sewer usage charges, such arrearages are reflected on the enclosed bill.”

The changes went into effect on bills sent out at the end of last week for July usage.