Policies differ from public to private entities, but the bottom line remains: When the bill is not paid, the service is turned off.
Such was the case this past week when the Town of North ended water service to an apartment complex.
Explanations differ for why Southeastern Housing and Community Development of Barnwell did not pay the bill for the 160 residents living at the private, non-profit agency’s complex in North. SHCD covers the water bill in one lump payment for all residents, who must qualify for rental subsidies to live at the complex.
Robert Thomas, SHCD executive director, said he was notified of the water shut-off after it had already occurred on Tuesday, Feb. 20.
“Ordinarily, the Town of North had sent the bill to a P.O. box in Barnwell. For the past two months, they had been sending it to a different address,” he said. He said SHCD did not have the new address on file with the town.
North Mayor Patty Carson said the town did not make a mistake in sending the bill.
“The water bill for Southeastern Housing was mailed to the correct address. We bill in arrears and water customers have approximately 23 days to pay their bill online, via our drop box or in person during normal business hours.”
The matter made headlines after residents of the apartment complex sought assistance when the water was turned off.
"I received multiple calls from constituents in that area that their water got cut off,” Rep. Russell Ott, D-St. Matthews, said.
Ott said he inquired by calling the North mayor and offering to pay the water bill himself in order to get service restored.
The mayor said she told Ott that was satisfactory. The water service was restored on the night of Feb. 20, she said.
Ott paid the bill the next morning and reportedly has since been reimbursed by SHCD.
But the solution did not come about without rancor.
A reader might infer from a Feb. 22 statement by the mayor that she was accusing Ott of playing politics in the matter. “Why he chose to involve the media is unknown to me, but correct me if I am wrong, I believe Mr. Ott is up for re-election this year,” Carson wrote.
That statement followed Ott paying the $3,100 bill and expressing disappointment in the reaction he got from the mayor during a phone call on the evening of Feb. 20.
“I contacted her directly to try to remedy the problem. I was extremely disappointed in the reaction," he said. "I was told that she was about to have supper and that she would deal with the problem during normal business hours."
Enough said. Hopefully, there will be no further problem with water service for the apartments.
Southeastern Housing and Community Development is responsible for payment each month, whether a bill is received or not.
The Town of North can correctly contend it was right in the matter, following regulations in turning off water service.
Yet credit is due Ott for doing the right thing, taking the time to be a good representative of the people and then avoiding any further discord by saying Thursday: “I am glad the issue has been resolved, and I hope similar situations can be avoided in the future.”