The Town of Lady Lake will be turning off the tap on water customers behind on their payments due to COVID-19’s impact on the economy.
There are 181 delinquent water customers who owe the town $28,000.
The Lady Lake Commission on Wednesday agreed to turn off the tap if they don’t pay up.
Last year as the Coronavirus began its rampage across the nation, Lady Lake decided to suspend disconnecting water customers who had fallen behind on payments due to economic distress.
In October, the town sent signals to the delinquent customers that if they didn’t begin paying their bills their water would be cut off.
“The feedback we received was not positive,” said Interim Town Manager Thad Carroll.
The town temporarily opted to hold off on the disconnections.
Leesburg, Fruitland Park, Mount Dora and Eustis have had similar problems and have re-established water disconnections, Carroll said.
Commissioners said the town could not indefinitely allow the water bills to go unpaid.
Renters can be a particular problem, because if the money is not collected and the renter moves on, the money likely will never be collected. Florida statute protects the landlords from being stuck with delinquent renters’ water bills.
Lady Lake Finance Director Pamela Winegarder said many of the delinquent water customers are repeat offenders.
“Are they acting like they really want to do something about it? Or are they just using their time?” asked Commissioner Dan Vincent.
He pointed out that the U.S. government recently began sending out stimulus checks to Americans to help ease the economic pain inflicted by the Coronavirus.
“They all received a $600 check. They could at least send us $20,” Vincent said.
Mayor Ruth Kussard said the residents who faithfully pay their water bills cannot be held to a higher standard than the scofflaws.
“You don’t want this to be a lifestyle. If you have bills, you need to pay them,” she said.
Shutting off the water would get the attention of the residents who have ignored the bills.
“They will be aware of the situation when they turn on the faucet and nothing comes out,” said Commissioner Tony Holden.
Information will be included in the next billing cycling, reminding those in need that there are options such as applying for funding through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security being administered through Lake County.
Town officials also encouraged those behind on water bills to contact the town to try to set up a payment plan.
“We are always ready to work with people,” Winegardner said.