Township removes compounding late fee

By CHARITY SMITH RAMSAY – The Bessemer Township board voted unanimously during its regular meeting Monday to approve that the 10% late fee for Powderhorn Area Utility District customers be non-compounding. “We recognize that there is a need for PAUD to remain a solid and functioning sewer system, but we also aren’t convinced that a 10% compounding late fee is necessary for that to happen,” said Nena Kleimola, Bessemer Township representative on the PAUD Board. Township supervisor Jeff Randall said the issue came up when they were reviewing the rate ordinance for ways that it could or should be changed. He said that the issue of the late fee came up because most people do not charge a compounding fee. Randall said the two townships that comprise the PAUD – Bessemer Township and Ironwood Township – were originally at odds regarding the compounding interest. He said that Bessemer Township originally wanted to keep it and that Ironwood Township wanted to eliminate it, but now neither will have a compounding late fee. Kleimola said she contacted several different municipalities to inquire about what they charge for late fees, including Ironwood, Ironwood Township, Bessemer, Wakefield, and Wakefield Township and Hurley. According to Kleimola, Ironwood, Ironwood Township and the city of Bessemer all charge a 10% late fee that is non-compounding. Wakefield charges $10 and Hurley charges 3% non-compounding. “They all stated that they have maintained their systems financially with this arrangement, and none of them are compounding,” she said. “A 10% compounding fee doesn’t seem fair or equitable to the residents who pay these bills.” Kleimola said that sewer bills in the district can be “astounding.” She said that in one quarter, her bill is $462 and that 10% of that bill would be $46.20, but if you started compounding that it could add up quickly. “I think that 10%, if we don’t have a delinquency issue, is fair. If Ironwood Township is doing that, then I think we should all be across the board,” said Hope Tarnaski, township treasurer. Board member Sue Roberts expressed concern that removing the compounding interest could backfire, But Tarnaski said that it can always be changed.

The township also voted to apply for grant monies from the Drinking Water Asset Management fund and the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund. If approved, the grant through DWAM would allow the township have an analysis of the water system and get recommendations to determine what is needed to keep the system in good shape over time. The grant does not require a local match, said Randall. “Bessemer Township has been through that with a sewer system grant, so you know it just stands to reason that we would want to look at our water system the same way,” Randall said. The DWSRF grant would help to cover the cost of replacing lead and galvanized pipes that goes from a home to a water main. This grant would cover 100% of the cost. “With the emphasis to get rid of any lead in the system, what they are doing is giving money to communities and municipalities to help get rid of those old service lines to replace them with a copper pipe,” Randall said. The grant applications will cost the city a total of $5,000, which according to Kelly Heidbrier of C2AE architecture is approximately the cost of replacing the lateral lines on one property alone. It is unknown how many lines need to be replaced. The board also noted that a couple of Bessemer Township crew members have been forced to quarantine after family members tested positive for COVID-19. The township will be operating with a limited crew until the workers have completed their quarantine and tested negative for the virus.

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