Pol­icy changes as­sist wa­ter pa­trons

Antelope Valley Press - - FRONT PAGE - By AL­LI­SON GATLIN Val­ley Press Staff Writer

PALMDALE — Palmdale Wa­ter District cus­tomers will have more pro­tec­tions be­fore their wa­ter ser­vice may be shut off for ne­glect­ing to pay their bills on time, fol­low­ing pol­icy changes ap­proved Mon­day.

The changes re­flect the re­quire­ments of Se­nate Bill 998, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in Septem­ber 2018. The District has a dead­line of Feb. 1 to com­ply with the state law.

The Board of Di­rec­tors unan­i­mously ap­proved the new poli­cies.

“The fi­nance depart­ment is work­ing very dili­gently, very hard to try to im­ple­ment SB 998 and it’s not an easy task,” Fi­nance Man­ager Michael Wil­liams said. “There are a lot of re­quire­ments that are go­ing to be very dif­fi­cult,

but we are go­ing to do our best.”

Un­der the new state law, wa­ter ser­vice may not be shut off for delin­quent pay­ment for at least 60 days and writ­ten no­tice of pend­ing shut-off with spe­cific in­for­ma­tion must be pro­vided to cus­tomers.

The District may not dis­con­tinue wa­ter ser­vice for cus­tomers who meet cer­tain med­i­cal, fi­nan­cial and al­ter­na­tive pay­ment conditions and cer­tain cus­tomers must have the abil­ity to en­ter into al­ter­na­tive pay­ment ar­range­ments.

The num­ber of wa­ter shutoffs must be re­ported an­nu­ally to the state and posted on the District’s web­site.

The state law re­quires the District to pro­vide writ­ten no­tices not only in English and Span­ish, but also in Chi­nese, Ta­ga­log, Viet­namese, Korean and any other lan­guage spo­ken by at least 10% of the peo­ple re­sid­ing in the ser­vice area.

Ev­ery no­tice does not need to go out in ev­ery lan­guage, Wil­liams said. The no­tice ini­tially is sent in English, with state­ments in each of the dif­fer­ent lan­guages stat­ing how to get trans­la­tions, if needed.

The pol­icy will be posted on the web­site, www.palm­dale­wa­ter.org, in those lan­guages.

“This is an­other un­funded leg­is­la­tion, but we are a law-abid­ing wa­ter agency, and as such, we must fol­low the reg­u­la­tions within Se­nate Bill 998,” Di­rec­tor Robert Al­varado said.

The District may be fined $1,000 per day for not hav­ing th­ese poli­cies in place, Wil­liams said.

Among the ways the new pol­icy may im­pact the District’s op­er­a­tions and fi­nances is in the new re­quire­ment to hand-de­liver no­tices that have been re­turned by the postal ser­vice as un­de­liv­er­able, Wil­liams said.

Th­ese first re­minder no­tices will have to be posted at the ad­dress with the delin­quent ac­count.

“This is some­thing we didn’t have to do be­fore, so this is ad­di­tional man­power and ad­di­tional cost that we’re go­ing to need to fig­ure out some­how to get it done,” he said.

Other po­ten­tial fi­nan­cial im­pli­ca­tions in­clude a de­crease in re­con­nec­tion fees, an in­crease in ad­min­is­tra­tive costs, col­lec­tions, costs for pre­par­ing the mul­ti­ple trans­la­tions and in­creased postage costs, among oth­ers.

Ad­di­tion­ally, the pol­icy may de­lay the District’s cash flow tem­po­rar­ily, due to the ex­tended wa­ter dis­con­nec­tion date, Wil­liams said.

How­ever, it is not ex­pected that the pol­icy will re­duce the District’s over­all rev­enue, but the full im­pact is not yet clear, he said.

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