Paying Up

Paying Up
By:  Arnold Wyrick
West Frankfort, IL -- More then a thousand residents in West Frankfort are not paying their water bills, putting the city in financial crunch.  In some case it's been more then 8 years since a payment was made on an account and the water was still running.  That was before the new Mayor Larry Warren was sworn into office.
" We've determined that there has been instances where those meters that were turned off, were turned back on the same day without payment.  We can't tolerate that," says Mayor Larry Warren.
" There's a city ordinance that states a person must pay $150.00 reconnect fee when they've been shut off.  In some cases people paid $20.00 dollars, and in others they paid nothing.  Those days are over," Mayor Warren said.
With the city facing a $285,000.00 dollar deficit the Mayor and Water Commissioner Jack Warren have been reviewing the old records in the water department trying to recover some of the outstanding debt.
" We get our water from the Rend Lake Conservancy District.  We can't lapse on it at all.  So we have to collect enough money to pay that bill and we've had a hard time doing that lately," says Jack Warren.
The city isn't waiting for folks who are more then 60 days behind on their bill, to come in and pay.  Instead they're just disconnecting those residents, until the bill is paid, or arrangements to pay it have been agreed upon.
" All the meters will be read and all the bills will be paid.  If we find that people are intentionally stealing water, which is really what were talking about here.  Then we will make examples out of those people, we will prosecute them," Mayor Warren said.
" In years past the administrations have worked in different ways, some of which have been called the, "Good Ol Boy Politics."  I don't know how to operate like that, but I do know how to run a business.  You can't get ahead by spending more then you have.  We have to stop the non-payment of water bills."
City crews will be out inspecting each water meter throughout the city to determine, if it's a valid account, or if some one has tapped into the water for free.
" There are some that are routing around their meters.  And we're going to be looking into that to make sure that doesn't happen," Commissioner Warren said.
" We have 315 customers currently that are behind on their bill, totaling more then $46,000.00 dollars.  And 7 of those people are city employees.  That's an embarrassment to the city.  I've contacted the lawyers, if we need to go that route to get these accounts paid.  I don't know if that's the main reason we're in a financial crunch right now.  It certainly adds to the situation," Mayor Warren said.
Meanwhile, the F.B.I. is conducting their own investigation into prior administrations, and their alleged misuse of city funds.  No word yet on the results of that investigation.