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  • Last modified 74 days ago (April 11, 2018)

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Two problems, just one solution

Citizens plead cases before city council

News editor

One Peabody resident left Peabody City Council on Monday with a sense of relief, while another left empty-handed, for now.

Verna Gervais was there trying to get the water turned back on for a house in the 700 block of Prairie Lawn Rd. where her brother and sister live, after it was shut off due to failure to make payments on an overdue water bill agreement.

Gervais owns the house, and her siblings pay for expenses through disability checks they receive.

A payment arrangement was worked out in January that spread the overdue amount over 12 monthly payments of $13, plus paying regular monthly bills on time. Gervais made one payment of $50 in February on what was at the end of March an outstanding bill of $440.

The problem, Gervais said, was due to compromised income.

She explained that her brother is in a Newton nursing home and his disability payments go there. Her sister didn’t receive disability checks in January, February, and March.

Without income from either sibling, Gervais had only her own, and that shrank dramatically when unexpected health problems put her in the hospital in February and March.

“I had a heart attack, I had seizures, I was in the hospital,” she said. “As soon as I got out I was able to go to work two days. I ended up back in the hospital because somebody hit me in the rear. I’ve been back to work two days now, and I don’t have the money. She doesn’t have the money.”

Council members were sympathetic, but were reluctant to renew a 12-month payment arrangement that wasn’t consistent with the standard 4-month payment plan.

“My only fear is that we step away from what we normally do,” council member Travis Wilson said. “I would entertain a four-month payment plan.”

As council members wrangled with options, it was brought up that the average monthly water charge for the house was around $70. A septic tank also was mentioned.

That set off an alarm for Kenny Rogers, who was sitting in the audience. He said his house uses a septic tank and his monthly bill averages $50. He suggested Gervais’s bills be checked for possible sewer charges.

City treasurer Elizabeth Harder quickly discovered sewer charges totaling $165.26.

“Sounds like you guys owe her some money,” Rogers said.

Once the charges were subtracted from the total bill, Gervais and the council came to a an agreement on a four-month payment plan that also incorporated a $50 reconnect fee.

Mayor Larry Larsen emphasized the importance of contacting the city before the 15th of the month if Gervais encountered any problem with making a payment, and suggested failure to live up to the agreement would not be so easily resolved again.

Rogers was present to ask about an ordinance published two weeks ago that closed old abandoned roads.

One of those roads runs along the south edge of his property, looking more like a wide strip of grass than a road.

Rogers’s concern was getting access to a field behind his house through a gate in the fence along that road. He shared a map showing the location of the road and gate.

While it was suggested Rogers could still use the gate if the landowner to the south, Rex Watson, agreed to give him access, Rogers countered that if Watson ever sold the property, he could be left without access again.

After about 15 minutes of discussion with no resolution, Wilson made a motion to refer the matter to the city’s attorney for clarification about the ordinance. The motion passed unanimously.

Last modified April 11, 2018

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