Several residents in Canonsburg have been receiving sewage bills late, leaving only a day or two to pay the bill.
During a Feb. 8 Canonsburg Borough Council meeting, Robert Luksis, chairman of the Canonsburg-Houston Joint Authority board, said the billing problem began in December, when residents didn’t receive their bills in the mail.
“We had no idea where the bills were, so initially our plan was going to be double billing for January,” Luksis said.
When the bill showed up Jan. 21 with a due date of Jan. 25, there wasn’t enough time for the payments to be processed through CHJA’s third-party vendor, Jordan Tax Service Inc. Payments weren’t credited in time, so January’s bill was also late, Luksis said.
Luksis said in the meeting that Jordan reported that the delay stemmed from the U.S. Postal Service, which had been experiencing slowdowns in mail delivery across the state, due, in part, to an uptick in mail around the holidays and COVID-19 outbreaks in facilities.
“We instructed Jordan to waive any penalties and late fees as of December until we fix this,” Luksis said. “Some people had delinquencies prior to December – those aren’t being waived. It’s December and forward that are being waived.”
Delinquent sewage fees are another growing concern that Luksis mentioned last week. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission put a moratorium on shutting off utilities, because so many people were unemployed and needed assistance paying bills. The PUC lifted the moratorium, with some restrictions, in the fall.
“We have been addressing the issue with our customers,” Luksis said. “We have been sending them fliers letting them know that we can’t shut off their utilities due to the moratorium, but also making them aware that, at some point, the moratorium is going to be lifted. At that point, obviously, payment will be expected, and if not received, we’ll be shutting off services.”
Prior to the pandemic, Luksis said the delinquencies totaled on average about $15,000. Since the pandemic, that number has increased to $52,000. Borough Councilman John Severine said during the meeting that more than 120 residents received notices the first week of February.
Luksis said they started sending out notices to folks who “at a minimum” haven’t made a payment in three months. Most who received the notice, he said, haven’t paid in four or five months.
“We don’t want another garbage situation on our residents as far as delinquencies,” Luksis said. “We’ve been monitoring it from day one. We’ve been touching these people all along the way, so no one can say they didn’t know about this. We warned them that once the moratorium was lifted that we would again be posting.”