North Adams Administrative Officer Michael Canales speaks with the Selectmen about overdue water bills to the city.
CLARKSBURG, Mass. — The town of Clarksburg and the city of North Adams pledged to work together to clear up a water debt to the city.
Town meeting on June 18 narrowly defeated a warrant article to appropriate $6,940 to cover individual water bills in arrears to the city.
"We're willing to work with the town," North Adams Administrative Officer Michael Canales told the Board of Selectmen on Wednesday night. "It's just best to find a way to zero this out."
Chairman Jeffrey Levanos described the vote as "unfortunate," noting that the appropriation bills dating back to 2011 required a four-fifths vote.
"With a small number of people attending, it only takes a few [to decide a vote]," he said.
"We'll do everything in our power to get money to the city as quickly as we can."
A number of town properties are hooked into extensions of the city's water lines.
Canales said there had been problems with the lines until an agreement was hammered out in 2005 between himself, at that time Clarksburg town administrator, and the city's administrative officer.
"Since 2005 forward, they've worked really well ... but in the recent years things have fallen by the wayside," said Canales.
He said the city realized that the fluctuation in the town's administration may have hampered its ability to collect. The town has been without a full-time administrator since February.
The town is responsible for collecting delinquent bills and compensating the city for bills more than 60 days in arrears. In return, the city has provided equipment and manpower to help service water lines.
"We'd like to get this cleared in the next several months," he said.
Tax Collector Melissa McGovern-Wandrei reported she had placed liens on the properties as they went into default and notified the mortgageholders.
"Certain measures are in place to more aggressively go after those who are delinquent," said Levanos.
Selectman William Schrade Jr. thought it was time to take the next step of beginning water shutoffs.
"We're at the point that we should be taking that measure," he said.
Levanos said he wanted the board kept apprised of the collection results.
"I don't want it dumped on us when it's a mess," he said.
While there are a number of smaller debts — for which payments are trickling in — the bulk of arrears is just a few properties, including foreclosures.
The biggest scofflaw? The town itself: A property on Wells Avenue taken for tax title has racked up a bill nearing $4,000.
The property was left vacant when the owner died and a son moved in promising to take over the back debt. The town recently allowed him to stay in the home, but despite numerous extensions, he has been unable to handle the debt, fees and interest that have piled up.
He was given a deadline of July 1 to vacate the premises and the board approved on Wednesday to continue the process to eviction if necessary. The property can't legally be auctioned by the town until November.
In other business, the board:
• Approved hiring Carrie Loholdt as animal control officer at a stipend of $1,400 a year. Loholdt works full time as North Adams ACO.
She will be on call with expectation she will respond to the town's average of 15 to 25 animal calls a year. Williams also noted that dogs are taken to the city's shelter a couple times a year at no charge.
• Approved the annual contract with Santek for monitoring the covered landfill.
• Approved a list of appointments to town boards. Vacancies are available on the Hoosac Water Quality District, Board of Appeals, Handicapped Commission, Historical Commission, Cultural Commission and Board of Health, and as fence viewer.
"We very desperately need a Board of Health member," said Levanos, to fill a vacant seat until the next election.
Interested applicants should contact Administrative Assistant Deb Choquette at Town Hall.