Some Huntington Residents Claim Victimization by Overly Aggressive Water Turnoffs

Updated 20 weeks ago by Tony E. Rutherford, News Editor
Some Huntington Residents Claim Victimization by Overly Aggressive Water Turnoffs

Huntington in April initiated an aggressive campaign to have dead beat sewer customers of the Huntington Sanitary Board pay up. Accounts two or more months past due total nearly $900,000.

However , some customers stress they were victimized and had to "waste time" and money having already paid a bill or rushing to the HSB office to pay a bill only a day or two past due.

Most fear retaliation so their names will not be given. HNN asked on social media for "past due" definitions and "how soon water was turned off after notice," since these are WV PSC mandates. 

One woman has been persistent that she did NOT receive proper notice. The WV Public Service Commission has twice requested that the HSB drop her case, but the board has refused. She faces a hearing and is determined to demonstrate their improper actions, even if she herself still pays the late fees and deposit.

Once water is turned off, customers must pay $25 for disconnection, $25 for reconnection, and a deposit. She maintains that the board's records are flawed.

A Huntington businessman told HNN anonymously that he paid his bill in full, but the HSB has his water turned off.

He had to "waste" two hours demanding that the customer service representatives check their payment records.

"I had proof that I paid my bill," the Huntington small businessman said. "It took two hours to get in touch with the water board ."  He described their interaction as "very tough, they did not want to believe me."

After requesting a supervisor, "they finally did research and found I paid the bill but THEY did not apply it to my account."

Typically, complaints stress, "They are to give you notice on back bills. And some people aren't even receiving bills." 

Tempers continue flaring at the HSB office on Seventh Avenue. Although the customer service representatives sit behind bullet proof glass, an off-duty Huntington Police officer has been hired. During a television remote his HPD vehicle could be seen in the live shot. 

Many customers dispute the two month to six month designation for past due cut offs, while acknowledging that deadbeats should not continue to receive water.

Yvonne Mosley  told WCHS she rushed to beat the Thursday deadline  to avoid turn off. 

Mosley admitted confusion since the sewer and water bills were separated.

She told WCHS, "I always forget where one was due where I was used to paying one bill for both." 

On Facebook a woman wrote, "my service got turned off twice for being three days late." Another said, "some people are not even given bills." 

Ken Elliott, a former Democratic candidate for Mayor responded, " Seems to me that the sanitary board is not following PSC guidelones. I understand that Huntington officials feel they do not have to follow state and federal law but alienating the population seems counterintuitive considering many people are trying to leave and the population is declining rapidly both business and people. Who enforces PSC violations? And who enforces retirement violations? The city is not above the law."

That's not an exaggeration. One woman moved back to Huntington for retirement and stated she wished she had not bought property inside the city limits. She has complaints too against the HSB. She's considering asking an attorney for input. 

Since the cut off story has spread,  comments cautioning about bill paying have been posted to social media too. Residents support that those who have never paid their sewer fees or who are six months behind should have their water terminated. 

"It is very very hard to believe these numbers are accurate. I have lived in Huntington even before the city took over doing the billing for HDB and the water was always cut if if the bill wasn't paid. I question why I would have been required to pay my bill and other folks were not. So I have a hard time believing this nonsense."

Although residents complain about lines at the HSB office on 7th Avenue, payments can be made online and at certain banks. 

One FB response has  suggested those disconnected  collect rainwater. 

"Let them fine me for collecting rainwater to wash my body." 

Another said, "Stop whining and go pay up."

But not everyone can afford all the fees. 

A young Huntington homeowner wrote, " taxes get tagged on..the water bill taxes alone are around $30 , family of four spend close to $100 , than you got $25 for sewer...than you got $60 for garbage, than house payment, all which have the same taxes..the city is killing us.. it's not wanting to pay.. it's being able to. I work two jobs. I busted my butt to buy a home,but I'm at the point of selling it..."

Speaking of hardship cases, which, incidentally, the WV PSC provides a method for stretching payments, a man on social media summarized:

"The city should be able to provide customer service in a timely manner. The city has a large low income population of working poor, disabled, and elderly. Sometimes they need a payment plan in order to get caught up on utilities. Don't make it difficult for clients to get a hold of you to resolve customer issues. When shuts off happen don't add outrageous fees that are unnecessary burden. The sanitary board terrible attitude and customer service is a poor image on the city."

Huntington City Council meets Monday, July 10 @ 7:30 p.m. No item is on the agenda concerning the HSB. No council member has yet to ask for a committee meeting and hearing so that the public may voice their concerns to city officials. 

 


 

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