A disgruntled resident made a presentation to council last Monday to dispute a utility late fee charge that he feels is unnecessary. Barry Phillips has lived in Merrickville-Wolford for nine years and says he has always paid his bills on time. Therefore, he was very surprised to find a bill in the mail saying he had missed a payment in July, and that interest charges of $3.41 and a penalty charge of $23.29 was being added to his account. According to Barry, he never received the original bill, otherwise he would have paid it, just like he has the rest of his bills for the past nine years. “It seems a bit hard that, when I didn’t get the bill in the post, I should be penalized that much,” Barry told council.
According to CAO John Regan, staff have looked into the mishap and there was no issue with the post machine, or the printer, when the statements went out. “There have been no complaints of anyone else not receiving their bill,” he told council.
Late fees for utility bills start being accrued the first day of default, as is written in the municipal by-law, with no grace period. “This procedure is no different than any other municipality,” said Mayor David Nash at the meeting. Barry believes that this procedure is high-handed and harsh. “It’s not about the money, it’s the principle,” he said.
Although it is evident that these issues do not come up a lot in the municipality, there was some discussion about electronic billing and how that would help avoid these situations in the future. Although Treasurer Sheila Kehoe says this is not a possibility with their current system, it is something she can look at for future implementation.