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The Dansville Online
  • Dansville: Free water dries up

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  • DANSVILLE — For 10 years, residents in the village of Dansville have been able to pay their water bills late without fear of getting the water and sewer service shut off. That is ending as the snow melts. The village sent out approximately 400 letters to customers who were 60 days past due on their account, with $348,740.58 owed to the village. The village has recovered the money in the past — plus a 10 percent penalty — as unpaid accounts go onto property tax bills. For landlords, that means they absorb the bills that were not paid by their tenants. Landlord Charles Comer of Pauline Road in Dansville submitted a Freedom of Information request after he said he was stuck with the unpaid bills. He even took out an ad in this newspaper showing his FOIL request. Dansville Mayor Pete Vogt, also a landlord in the village, said since letters went out, the number of people who are past due is now closer to 200 than 400, as residents stepped up and made payments. "This has been going on for a number of years, it's in (the village bylaws) to shut off water after 60 days but shut offs were not done," said Vogt. "We have to do something, we don't have the cash flow so we're going to enforce the law." Vogt said Comer accused the village of not enforcing the law and his response was, "As far as the village not enforcing the law? That is correct. We did not for about 10 years." Vogt is hoping the letters will take care of the late bills. He would prefer not to shut off services. He said Livingston County officials have requested Dansville start enforcing the law as it is written. "The county said we have to do something about it," said Vogt. Dansville had a water and sewer increase just over a year ago. When asked if the situation was a mess, Vogt disagreed. "It's an issue, I wouldn't call it a mess," he said. "People have had an opportunity the past 10 years to pay their bills. "We have not done shut offs yet, we are waiting until the spring," he continued. "Getting to 100 percent of the bills paid on time is unrealistic. But people are coming in and paying. Some were hostile because we have never asked for the payments, but most understand." While the $348,740 figure came from the Village of Dansville Department of Public Works on Feb. 11, Vogt considers the number high and inaccurate. However, Comer and Vogt both told the Genesee Country Express taxes did not go up as a result of the shortfall in bills being paid. "When the bill goes to the county on the taxes, the village gets a 10 percent return," Comer explained. "They do this for four quarters (billing cycles), they make 40 percent. They are guaranteed that water bill because it goes to your taxes. "If you are a homeowner and you think you are getting away with something by not paying your bill or your taxes, you are wrong," Comer continued. "See what happens after three years of not paying (property) taxes ... the county will sell your property."

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