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Upton Board Approves New Water/Sewer Payment Policy For Some Residents

Upton's DPW Director, Jeff Thompson, came before the Board of Selectmen during a January 21 meeting to discuss some hefty water/wastewater bills a number of residents are facing and asked the Board to approve a new payment policy to help alleviate some of their financial burden.

Over the past several months, the Water Department has been installing new external meter reading devices on customers' homes. The new devices are used to speed up the meter reading process and remotely reflect the reading from the actual water flow meter inside the home. However, because of their age, the older devices have been evaluating water usage sporadically thus causing some usage to go unreported until a later date. According to Thompson's report, these failures have typically been caused by a signal short between the meter and the external device or undetected leaks. As a result, some water users are receiving enormous bills which now include previous unbilled water.

"It really isn't their fault at all," said Thompson to the Board regarding the residents' unreported water adding that some of the unreported usage has resulted in water bills as high as $10,000.

Because water bills are typically due in 30 days, some residents could be facing a lien if their bills go unpaid. Therefore, Thompson approached the Board concerning a new exceptional water/wastewater bill policy to help these residents "pay back the amount due over a certain period of time without incurring interest," he said.

The policy states that once the DPW has verified the discrepancy, the resident and Town Treasurer/Collector will set up a payment plan for a 12 month period to help pay off water/sewer bills. If the amount due is truly substantial, the agreement may allow residents more than 12 months to pay up. However, according to Town Manager Blythe Robinson, residents must stick to the payment plan agreed to.

"I like this," said Selectman Robert Fleming. "We're all about trying to be fair. To work out a plan to help them, I'm in favor of it." The Board then agreed to unanimously adopt the policy.

Thompson said roughly 180 to 250 more new external meter reading devices still need to be installed at homes.

In other news that evening, it was agreed that effective July 1, the Cemetery Commission and the DPW will split duties concerning the town's cemeteries. There have been ongoing discussions between the Board of Selectmen and the Cemetery Commission concerning the management of the town's cemeteries.

It was discovered that a law adopted by the town in 1989 stated the DPW was to be responsible for overseeing the town's cemeteries; however, since then, the Cemetery Commission still continued to manage the cemeteries. In order to be in compliance with the law, it was agreed the DPW would govern the maintenance of the cemeteries while the Commission would be responsible for overseeing plot sales, scheduling funerals, and managing cemetery records, among several others duties.




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