City of Hiawassee approves moratorium on sewer service

News
HIawassee Mayor LIi Ordiales

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee City Council unanimously approved a moratorium on sewer services, Feb. 24, during a special-called meeting due to unpaid customer bills. The City of Hiawassee is expected to enter into mediation with Towns County Water and Sewage Authority next week. Hiawassee Councilwoman Patsy Owens motioned the moratorium, Councilwoman Anne Mitchell seconded, with the three remaining council members voting in favor.

A moratorium is a temporary suspension of an activity or a law until future events warrant lifting the suspension or related issues have been resolved.

Anne Mitchell - Hiawassee

Hiawassee Councilwoman Anne Mitchell

“There are a lot of individual housing accounts that also have this set-up with the Towns County Water and using our sewer but they’re not paying,” Councilwoman Anne Mitchell stated.

“We have a total of about 168 accounts,” Mayor Liz Ordiales responded. “The majority of them pay their bills, but the ones that don’t really don’t because it’s over $20,000. That’s more than 10-percent of our total, in-the-bank money for our sewer department. Just today I approved $6,780 worth of repairs and maintenance to the sewer department. It’s an expensive proposition and we just need to collect as much money as we can for that fund. It’s really that simple. So we’re proposing putting in a moratorium until we’re going into mediation with them next week and see if we can resolve any issues we’ve got.”

The mediation is expected to include a review of the mutual service delivery agreement.

The City of Hiawassee moratorium reads as follows:

RESOLUTION 20200203 SEWER SERVICE MORATORIUM

RESOLUTION OF THE MAYOR AND COUNCIL OF THE CITY

OF HIAWASSEE TO RESTRICT EXTRATERRITORIAL

PROVISION OF SEWER SERVICE IN THE FUTURE TO CUSTOMERS THAT RECEIVE WATER FROM THE CITY; TO

PROTECT THE FINANCIAL POSITION OF THE CITY; TO ENSURE COLLECTIBILITY OF PAYMENTS OF CHARGES FOR SEWER SERVICE AND ADDRESS THE ONGOING INABILITY TO INSURE COLLECTION OF CERTAIN SEWER ACCOUNTS OUTSIDE THE CITY IN UNINCORPORATED TOWNS COUNTY.

WHEREAS, the City of Hiawassee (“City”) provides sewer service within the City and to 

some customers outside the City in unincorporated Towns County; and 

WHEREAS, the City treats the sewage effluent at its wastewater treatment plant, which 

plant is operated and maintained using funds collected from sewer customers inside and outside 

the City; and 

WHEREAS, the City has certain loans for upgrades and improvements to the wastewater 

treatment plant, which loans must be serviced with funds collected from sewer customers inside 

and outside the City; and 

WHEREAS, while some of the customers in unincorporated Towns County receive water 

service from the City, most of those customers receive water service from the Towns County Water 

& Sewer Authority (“Authority’), and a listing of properties that receive water service from the 

Authority and sewer service from the City is attached hereto as Exhibit A; and 

WHEREAS, when those customers to whom the City provides water service fail to pay for 

their water or sewer service, the City is able to cut off the water thereby effectively preventing 

effluent from going into the system that requires incurring the cost of treatment for customers who 

are not paying; and 

WHEREAS, a number of customers in unincorporated Towns County that receive water 

service from the Authority have continuously failed to pay for the sewer service, a list of which 

delinquent accounts is attached here to as Exhibit B; and 

WHEREAS, the Authority has been unwilling, despite requests from the City, to cut off 

water service to these delinquent customers; and 

WHEREAS, these delinquent accounts are effectively receiving free public service; and 

WHEREAS, the City has had no effective way short of filing a multiplicity of lawsuits and 

incurring the additional cost of collection, to collect these unpaid funds; and 

WHEREAS, as a result of the Authority’s refusal to cut off water service to customers who 

fail to pay the sewer charges, the City has been forced to treat effluent from customers for which 

it is receiving no payments; and 

WHEREAS, this creates a burden on the users of the system that do pay, and the taxpayers 

of the City; and 

WHEREAS, these delinquencies and the City’s inability to collect the delinquencies may 

have a negative impact on the City’s financial position; and 

WHEREAS, the Authorities’ recent offer to assist with collections still leaves the ultimate 

decision as to whether to cut off the water with the Authority; and 

WHEREAS, there is a Service Delivery Agreement (“Agreement”) entered and executed 

by the City, the City of Young Harris and Towns County that requires all new customers who 

receive sewer service from the City also receive water service from the City, the purpose and intent 

of such provision being to allow the City and insure the collectability of its sewer accounts; and 

WHEREAS, the Authority has refused to abide by that Agreement negotiated, entered and 

executed by all the other governmental entities in Towns County; and 

WHEREAS, the Authority has executed Wholesale Water Agreements that provide that 

the City shall have the right to provide commercial sewer customers with water; and 

WHEREAS, the Authority has refused to follow those terms of the Wholesale Water 

Agreements; and 

WHEREAS, the City is ready, willing and able to provide water service to any customer 

to which it provides sewer service; and 

WHEREAS, most recently, the Authority allowed the re-establishment of water service

without notifying the City, at a location utilized as a restaurant where the previous restaurant had 

gone out of business and left the City with unpaid sewer charges in excess of $4,000.00; and 

WHEREAS, this situation has become untenable

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, for the shorter of (i) a period of six (6) months, 

or (ii) until such time as the Authority is willing to agree to allow the City to provide water service 

to those properties to which it also provides sewer service, the City declares a moratorium on 

providing sewer service to such properties when a new account for a new customer is sought to be 

established, unless the customer also obtains water service from the City; and 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that new customers or new accounts shall have that 

meaning as intended by the Agreements and consistent with standard water and sewer service 

terminology, being a person who files an application for service that is not then a current recipient 

of such service; and 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that this moratorium shall remain in effect for the shorter 

of (i) a period of six (6) months, or (ii) until the Authority and the City enter into an Agreement 

that provides the City with assurances satisfactory to the Mayor and Council that the City’s sewer 

service charges will be collectable and collected, and that the City will have control over whether 

to provide water to such customers; and 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that this Resolution and the minutes of the meeting 

adopting this Resolution be certified and served upon each member of the Board of the Towns 

County Water & Sewer Authority, its Director and Attorneys; and 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the owners of all properties identified in Exhibit A be 

mailed a copy of this Resolution such that they are on notice and can provide this information to 

their successors in interest or future tenants as the case may be

In other news, Mayor Ordiales announced that sewer expansion is expected to be completed by the end of March. “All of that work that you see on the bridge, that’s the new pipe coming underneath the bridge that’s going to connect. so once that’s completely done we’ll put some grass out there and make it look a little nicer.” The sewer plant intake has been upgraded with a new wall, paint, and aerator. A pipe was additionally installed on a city lift station.

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