Some MSD Customers Could Get Help With Bills

Mar 7, 2018

Hamilton County commissioners are considering starting a customer assistance program for the Metropolitan Sewer District. It would help some people with their sewer bills.

Brian Wamsley with Hamilton County Planning and Development says three different plans rose to the top. "The first one was a senior citizen and permanent disabilities bill discount program. The second program is very similar to that but more inclusive. There'd be more participants. It's a low income reduced rate program. The third one is a financial hardship assistance program."

Wamsley says Columbus and Cleveland have each had different combinations for more than ten years.

An assistance program was recommended by the Rate Affordability Task Force.

Wamsley was part of a work group that looked at MSD's 2017 numbers and found "43,240 active accounts went into delinquent status and that represents 19 percent of the accounts total. Sixteen and a half percent of calls each day are regarding payment plans, questions about current plans or asking to establish a new plan."

Wamsley says nearly a quarter of the more than 45,000 payment plans defaulted. He says the costs are absorbed by other customers.

Before Hamilton County commissioners can approve a customer assistance program, they have to figure out how it would work. Steve Johns with MSD says it may not work countywide. "Waterworks collects for areas in the city of Cincinnati and other parts of the county. There are some smaller jurisdictions often, like the city of Wyoming, which has its own water billing process. Those are the communities that we need to reach out to and say 'is this even possible?'"

Commissioners are also looking at a moratorium on shut-offs while they consider the assistance program. They have three more public hearings. The next is March 15 at the Board of Elections office in Norwood.