LATHROP – The City of Lathrop is giving every Lathrop resident behind on their water bill a Christmas present this year.
They won’t be shutting off their water during the month of December in order to lighten the load that typically comes around the holidays for families that might be financially strapped.
Last week the Lathrop City Council voted to suspend water disconnection for the month of December for accounts that have progressed to that final step. It’s a move that the City of Lathrop has executed every December since 1996 as a courtesy to residents.
But that doesn’t mean that those who don’t pay during that month – or those who don’t make good on outstanding payments – aren’t without consequences.
The city will still apply a 10 percent late fee to all accounts that are not paid up by Dec. 31, and disconnections will continue in January for those who didn’t take advantage of the courtesy the month prior.
On average this year Lathrop has disconnected 118 homes a month form the city’s existing water system, and has collected $7,080 per month in “restoration” charges for those who wish to have the water turned back on. The city will be out that money for the month of December.
Disconnection is the last step after those who haven’t paid their bill are notified twice that the water will be turned off it the balance isn’t cleared by the third week past the due date.
According to the staff report, “interruptions of essential city services such as water service due to non-payment can be disruptive during the holidays” – reiterating the council has approved this measure every year for the last 20 years as a courtesy to residents.
The council has typically stood behind city staff when it comes to enforcing the existing ordinance that allows for disconnections to occur. Two years ago the matter became an issue when then councilman Omar Ornelas criticized the city’s policy for disconnecting water for non-paying customers, but the council ultimately ended up keeping the existing program in place.
Like other cities throughout the South County, Lathrop has had to meet water conservation efforts after a state mandate went into effect that limits the number of days that residents can water and requires that cities conserve at least 20 percent when compared with 2013 levels.
Those reductions have had a negative impact on the city’s water fund, which has forced the council to take additional steps to keep it solvent moving forward as rationing and mandatory reductions become standard operating procedure for Central Valley communities.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 209.249.3544.