FLUSHING — Flushing residents who have unpaid water fees will soon be getting notified by the city to pay their bills in full, following the expiration of a statewide moratorium on water shutoffs.
At its April 12 meeting, Flushing City Council approved a motion to send water bill notifications through the mail to delinquent account holders in the city. Residents with unpaid water bills will have 30 days from the time they received the notification to contact the city and arrange for either making their payment outright or requesting a series of payments.
The city council’s move to allow water shutoffs follows the March 31 expiration of Public Act 252 of 2020, which extended a statewide water shutoff moratorium enacted during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic last March.
Currently, Flushing has 283 accounts that qualify for shutoffs and $130,207.59 in total unpaid water fees. The water shutoff moratorium did not apply to businesses.
Flushing City Manager Clarence Goodlein said that while the water shutoff moratorium gave temporary relief to people during the pandemic, they will now have to pay for nearly a year’s worth of water bills.
“Once the forbearance periods run out, individuals have to pay all of the money that’s due,” he said. “They have to come up with the money, and if they can’t, now they’re put into a terrible situation where there has to be a water shutoff being contemplated for them.
“From the city’s standpoint, we have to pay for the water and the operation,” Goodlein added. “That makes it pretty difficult for the city. At the same time, the legislation, in my humble opinion, has put these users into a difficult situation too because they now have to come up with a large amount of money in a very short period of time.”
Flushing Mayor Joseph Karlichek said that the state should have given more oversight to help communities prepare for the end of the water shutoff moratorium.
“They (lawmakers) stood before the cameras and had all the spotlight when they announced the moratoriums,” he said. “Now that the moratoriums have expired and people are put into a real predicament, the (legislature) and the governor’s response is to ‘head for the hills,’ and we’re left to pick up the pieces.”
According to Goodlein, it will take between 10 to 15 days to get water bill notifications to each of the city’s 283 delinquent account holders.
In addition to mailing water bill notifications, the city will also be posting notice of the water shutoff moratorium’s expiration at flushingcity.com.