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Overdue bills are now due

The city of Vandalia resumed on Monday shutting off service and issuing penalties for unpaid water bills, and later that day, aldermen talked about its options for getting those overdue payments collected.
In the middle of March, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the city decided to suspend late fees and shut-offs.
That grace period covered services for March, April, May and June.
During her report to the city council, City Clerk Peggy Bowen said that with the grace period ending, the city would be turning the overdue accounts to the city attorney, Ryan Connor, in attempt to have the owed money recouped through the courts.
It’s particularly an issue, Bowen said, because some water users “haven’t paid since they heard the word from the governor (on COVID-19).”
Some water users, she said, have not paid on their bills since February. “Some of them are $300, some are $500,” Bowen said.
Mayor Rick Gottman mentioned during that discussion that the city can send information on overdue accounts to the Illinois Department of Revenue, then, when someone who owes the city money files their income tax, the state will give the city at least a share of that person’s income tax refund.
Alderman Mike Hobler asked whether it would be more cost-effective to take that route, instead of paying the city attorney to seek payment.
Connor said that many of those overdue accounts are handled at the same time, and the city is charged for time spent on each case, not individually for each case.
Earlier in the meeting, the council ratified acceptance of a purchase option on land for a new water plant.
That option is for land owned by Walt and Paula Barenfanger on Sunset Drive, across from the Fayette County Farm Bureau office.
Exercising that option, Gottman said, is part of the city’s application for grant funds for the new water plant.
The estimated cost of the new plant is $21 million, with improvements including upgrades to water intakes and pumps, and 10,000 feet of water lines.
The city in February received a $4.1-million grant and $14-million loan through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development program.

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