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Council discusses water and sewer services

Harlan City Council members dealt with a number of city issues during a meeting Monday night, including an engaging discussion on water and sewer costumers.

City engineer Leo Miller brought the dilemma of whether or not the council should require potential sewer customers to also have a municipal water hookup if they are to receive sewage services.

“In the set up in past years, if a person was not on a municipal waterline and they were on a well, we hooked them up and billed them on a basic rate for whatever was their next-door neighbor’s rate. Usually, it was just the minimum amount of water usage,” Miller said.

He added the sewer customers were billed by the last city treasurer, Charles Guyn, but “a lot of them didn’t pay.” Miller then asked the council to make a motion for Harlan Municipal Sewer to not provide services to anyone using well water instead of a municipal service.

“If you do it, it’ll take care of us because you’ve got a pretty good amount of sewer users that don’t pay. I’m sure we have a lot on Black Mountain or Cawood,” Miller said. “This is about a 20-year progression and we had to do it to get us started.”

Harlan Mayor Joseph Meadors said he agreed with Miller and the council has been “more than fair with them.”

Miller said the motion would cover a variety of districts, such as Harlan Municipal Water Works, Cawood Water District, Black Mountain Utility District and Evarts Water District.

Meadors asked Miller what would happen if a group of reputable people from the community came to a meeting and wanted to tie on to a sewer line without a municipal waterline.

“What if you have someone come in here saying ‘I’ve never not paid you, are you going to deny me sewer service because you couldn’t make others pay?’ If they want to do that and we don’t give them the opportunity, they will have to use a septic system,” Meadors said.

Meadors said he has heard about people coming to pay their water bills but refuse to pay their sewage bill because “they don’t want to pay the city of Harlan a penny and that’s not fair to all of us who pay, whether you’re in the city or not.”

Miller explained the motion would only apply to new sewer customers and not existing customers because it would be difficult to force them to switch over.

“I was telling them (council) before that I’ve been to small-claims court the last four or five months and I will say that the county, for their past due garbage bills, filed claims in court,” Meadors said. “It’s for people that haven’t paid their garbage bills and it’s pretty good size amounts. Evidently, the county is getting a pretty good response from this.”

Meadors said most of the people who come through the small-claims court will try to settle, paying half of what they owe and the rest of the amount split up with the remainder of their bills.

“I think there is a substantial amount of money owed to us, but I have no idea how much,” Meadors said. “If we identify people that are on a well and we aren’t going to sign them up on our sewer system and they aren’t using a septic system and just run a straight pipe to the creek, that’s where the health department needs to step in.”

Ultimately, the council decided to meet with Miller at another appointed time in order to ask more questions before making a decision.