For some, paying escalating water and sewer bills is a tough proposition. Typically the city sends out upward to 350 shut-off first notices every other month and ends up shutting off service to an average of 8 households when deadlines aren't met. With Monday's council decision some help will be on the way as the city approves a program that would set aside $10,000 to help those most in need.
The program, initially suggested by City Councilor Drew Herzig, would partner with Clatsop Community Action, a local charity organization, that already has a system in place for determining need. The city will set aside $10,000 from the general fund and with the help of Clatsop Community Action (CCA) staff established income guidelines for qualifying households, incorporated a waiver of water shut-off/reconnection charges...etc. After some discussion the councuil determined that residents who get a second water shut-off notice will become eligible to apply for aid. When a water/sewer bill is overdue five days a first notice is mailed out warning of a shut-off. That's between 300 to 350 households the majority of which pay those bills before a second notice goes out. If that first notice is the trigger CCA staff were concerned they might well find themselves overwhelmed with application requests. Benoit suggests that the city wait until a second notice is sent even though the deadline to a shut-off is only seven days but the average number of those notices are lower averaging 90-100. In that second notice the household would be informed about the assistance program and how to apply through CCA. The number of people that could be helped would be limited and the council determined that a household will only be able to apply for help twice in a given year.
The City Council meets tonight at 7pm at Astoria City hall, second floor council chambers.