Some water customers in Evangeline Parish are finding out the hard way what happens if they don’t pay their bills. The East Side Water System in Ville Platte is now enforcing its policy when it comes late payments.
The company provides water to 1,317 homes in the city. If bills aren’t paid in full, service is shut off after 10 days and customers are faced with a $100 reconnection fee.
Last month, the East Side Water System cut off service for 92 customers who were late paying their bills.
“We don’t have a problem with paying our bill,” resident Alquela Lee said. “We do have a problem that you’re turning us off without notice. We do have a problem that you’re charging $100.”
Lee was one of those customers whose water was turned off.
“One lady with a $5 bill was charged 100 dollars to reconnect,” Lee said. “This all happened without notice of any kind.”
A sign on the door of the water company shows enforcement was announced August 1.
“We have to collect the money that’s due,” Randel Brown, with the Water System, said. “In 2015 the auditor told us we had $8,000 worth of water that was not collected. He said we had to tighten up and shut the meters off.”
Brown acknowledges enforcement is new, however he says the fee has been in place in the system’s policies since 2015.
“We have to send a guy out and lock it (meters) up and then we have to send the same guy to unlock it,” Brown said. “It’s a lot more work then what people think. If you have only one that’s not a big deal, but if you have 70 (homes) of them that adds up.”
However, some customers are making the case for a grace period.
“We are not going to be abused with our finances that we are working hard for,” Lee said. ” We need to work together and not take advantage of each other, especially with a water bill.”
Brown’s response is simple. “Pay your bill on time and it won’t cost you anything,” he says.
The water system is planning to reduce the re-connection fee to $50. However, that change won’t take effect until January 1.