MASSENA — Massena village trustees are exploring possible plans that could temporarily eliminate late charges on water bills for residents directly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mayor Timmy J. Currier told trustees on Tuesday that he was beginning to receive requests from people who were being assessed late fees on their water bills because they hadn’t been able to pay them on time.
I’ve had three landlords come to me,” he said.
Village officials turned to the New York Conference of Mayors for some guidance.
“We just can’t give blanket waivers. We can’t just waive fees. We’re not authorized by law,” Mr. Currier said.
He said any action would need to be done by local law or resolution.
‘It can’t be blanket waivers. We can’t do a pick and choose type thing. We cannot have a relatively narrow way to waive fees,” he said.
He said, if the board was inclined to do so, they could pass a resolution waiving fees for COVID-related circumstances.
Deputy Mayor Matthew J. LeBire said he favored a resolution that would narrow the qualifications down to only those who are directly impacted by the pandemic.
“Somebody who has not been as fortunate may be impacted. It might be nice if there’s something that can be done,” he said.
He suggested developing guidelines that would allow people to indicate how they were impacted and qualify for the waiver
“I’d certainly be willing to consider something if we came up with that,” Mr. LeBire said.
Trustee Christine Winston said she liked how they would hold individuals accountable with the information they provided “so people don’t take advantage of our generosity.”
Mr. Currier said they could indicate that the waiver would be for certain months only, and who might qualify.
“If you’re inconsistent... it becomes an issue. There are a lot of challenges,” he said.
Someone who would not be eligible for the waiver, even if they were directly impacted by COVID-19, would be residents who were not in good standing — who had never paid their water bill and has had it put on their taxes.
Rather than requiring staff members to go through accounts to see who had an outstanding bill, Mr. Currier suggested they put the onus on the ratepayer in a written application.
“There’s a lot to think through here if we’re so inclined to do it,” he said.
Trustees expressed an interest, and he said he would get staff together to come up with certain scenarios that could be presented to trustees.