PORT JEFFERSON — Port Jefferson Council moved one step closer to installing shut-off valves on the sewage lines of several residents guilty of not paying overdue septic bills.
Council began discussing what to do about overdue sewage bills over a year ago looking into various ways to get those with overdue bills to pay up including tacking on additional financial penalties that ultimately are added to the real estate taxes of those with delinquent accounts. Time passed and though a few residents complied and got things caught up, the majority did nothing leaving the village with no other choice than to pay the overdue bills which amounts to about $1,500 to $2,000 per month.
Fiscal officer Judy Fair recently reported that at present some residents owe several thousand dollars in overdue bills with at least one resident eclipsing the $5,000 mark.
“Port Jefferson municipal septic went online July 2001, and some residents have never paid their bills on time since they were hooked up so the responsibility then fell on the village. We are hoping the threat of losing sewage services will encourage those with delinquent accounts to get their bills caught up,” said Mayor Steve Butterfield during Monday night’s council meeting.
Butterfield told council that he had looked into how much shut-off valves for the sewage lines would cost and is still working on how much a contractor would charge to install them. He then asked if council was ready to move ahead with installing the valves and council gave its unanimous support. Not date for the installations has been set but the mayor indicated they have the green light from the village solicitor and the shut-offs will be installed very soon.
At the formal opening of the council meeting, Butterfield announced changes in how the council meetings would be conducted. He said from now on the meetings would have a specified portion of the agenda set aside for any input from the public and each person wishing to address council would have a limit of five minutes to make comments or ask questions.
“From now on we’ll not be having any lengthy discussions with anyone outside of that between the council members and the mayor during our normal business dealings as things tend to get confusing and off-track. We will have a time set aside for public input but that will be the only time visitors will be allowed to discuss matters associated with village affairs. If anyone has any questions after that they can see me after the meeting for clarification,” Butterfield said.
The mayor then confirmed the new rules would go into effect immediately. Butterfield also announced the finance committee will meet prior to each council meeting at 6:45 to discuss financial matters.
In other old business the mayor told council he spoke with Police Chief Mark Bell and asked for a detailed schedule of who would be on duty and when and also requested more organized coverage at specific times of the day and night. Patrolman Austin Knight was present and reported that he has recovered from an injury, was back in service, and that he would be working with village residents on addressing zoning offences; he noted those who do not come into compliance will be referred to Shelby County Municipal Court. Knight also said all police officers working for the village were now certified and had completed all of the training required for them to serve as police officers.
In other old business councilwoman Krystal Cox reported the street committee was recommending a pay increase for those working for the street department. Workers are currently paid $10 per hour and the committee recommended an increase to $12 per hour. Councilwoman Loretta Cook said she understood the need to increase the wages for the street department but questioned paying them more than the police officers who “lay their life on the line for our safety.”
“I just feel someone mowing grass, cutting trees, and putting up signs should not make more money than those who risk their lives to keep us safe,” said Cook.
Fair then asked for permission to speak but was denied the privilege based on the earlier decision to only allow discussion between the mayor and council during the regular session.
Councilman Dave Clem noted comparisons to current market evaluations indicated that $12/hr. was not too much for that type of hard labor and that most places pay a lot more than that if they can find the help. He also indicated that $10 per hour was questionable for the police officers and that council should probably look into that situation as well. After more discussion by council the issue came to a vote and the measure to increase the street worker’s wage was passed unanimously.
In new business Butterfield asked council to consider a resolution accept the amounts and rates of tax levies. Each year the Shelby County Budget Commission certifies an estimate by the Shelby County Auditor for the rate of each tax necessary to be levied by council, and what part is without and what part is within the ten mill tax limitation. By passing this resolution, council accepts these amounts and rates and that there be levied on the tax duplicate of the Village that rate of each tax necessary to be levied within and without the 10 mill limitations. Council passed the resolution.
Before adjournment Butterfield reminded everyone that the village of Port Jefferson will hold their annual Halloween night on Oct. 31, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Butterfield said both the village police and the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office would be on hand with their emergency lights on to remind those passing through the village to slow down for the safety of the children out on the streets. Councilwoman Krystal Cox recommended the village purchase candy for the police officers to pass out to the children; council approved the purchase of candy not to exceed $50.
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.