AYER -- Selectmen unanimously approved a water shutoff policy at their Oct. 30 meeting. Ayer DPW Superintendent Mark Wetzel said the hope was for all to learn of the policy to be on notice of the procedure.

While water and sewer bills are due on the date printed on bills, on the 31st day after the due date, the Water Department will issue its first "late notification letter." The customer must then make payment or schedule payment arrangements. If not paid 15 days later (or 45 days overdue) a second notification is issued, warning that water and sewer service may be shut off for nonpayment.

The third and final notification will be sent certified mail when a bill is 60 days overdue with a final overdue payment deadline. The customer's door will also be tagged with a brightly-colored notice, stating the date and time of service shutoff.

If payment is not received or a payment plan entered, the DPW superintendent, town administrator, and Board of Health will be notified of termination of water service at the nonpaying address.

Water service termination and renewals will only occur during DPW business hours of 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday. After-hours service renewal will only occur in emergency situations authorized by the DPW superintendent.

To eliminate the threat of service shutoff, payment must be made in an exact cash payment, money order, or certified or bank cashier's check. Timely payment can stop the termination order. If paying after water service is terminated, customers must also pay a water service turn-on fee.

Collection agreements shall be signed by customers and will detail all the conditions required to be met to prevent service termination. Failure to abide by the plans will result in service termination.

Wetzel said of the top 25 deadbeat water/sewer customers, there was $142,000 in outstanding balances due to the Water Department.

"We want to get this out ... so people are not caught off guard," said Wetzel. Unpaid obligations can mature into a lien on a property.

"How quickly do you think you'll be tagging doors," asked Selectman Christopher Hillman.

"As soon as staff gets a chance to do it," said Wetzel. Billing software upgrades are afoot and so billing notices may flow as soon as the first of the year, said Wetzel.

-- Mary Arata